The Queen Of Ireland speaks...

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When I was 20 years old, at a party at my brother's flat in London, I met the most exotic and fabulous creature that I had ever laid eyes on. 

He was a performance artist named Leigh Bowery. He was a big man, tall, voluptous, fleshily imposing, and by the time I met him he was already a legendary figure on the club scene.

And, for a young, gay Irish art student, meeting him was both exciting and revelatory, because Leigh had made a name for himself as a sort of living work of art. He was a clubland flesh-and-blood sculpture, a towering installation of skin and costume that moved with surprising grace through crowded rooms of startled clubbers or puzzled gallery patrons. His astonishing costumes sometimes pushed his flesh into impossible, unsettling shapes, and set a standard to which every club kid with a couple of ping-pong balls stuck to his face has been striving towards ever since

For Leigh Bowery, his body wasn't an end, it was a beginning, a medium of transformation and opportunity. With paint and fabric and movement and performance, he pushed against the boundaries of his own , his own biology, and transformed himself.

Until I met Leigh that summer, I had always that I was in a way fixed, or immutable - that I was and always would be the vet's son from a small town in the west of Ireland. That somehow my peremeters were already set and my defining characteristics already defined. But, in Leigh I began to see all these new opportunities and possibilities, because he was this doughy kid from the arsehole of Australia, and yet here he was - the startling epicentre of cool London, the most fabulous creature in a scene full of fabulous creatures.

And, in Leigh I saw that transformation wasn't just possible but it was exciting, and maybe even necessary. For the first time in my life I realized that I didn't have to be defined by where or what I came from. I could define myself. I was the master of my own destiny. Life was for creating, not consuming, and convention was for wimps.

I am still interested in this idea of transformation being both possible and necessary - on an individual level, obviously, but also in a wider context. How do you transform, say, a society or a country. What are we, and what do we want to be? And, just as the caterpillar sheds its chrysalis, what do we want to leave behind when we become who we are truly meant to be?

Listen to the full episode of Pantisocracy: A Window on Change by clicking on the image above.