Is texture, touch for the eye?
Thought 1: Can’t tell you how dismayed I was when they stopped allowing you to be a robot in AltspaceVR, (won’t even mention the giant Pottery Barn –everyone can be white!–called Facebook Horizons). The normalization of identity through avatar is to be expected. It is a digital form of what Foucault called “bio-power” and it is our future. But, that doesn’t mean we won’t find ways to resist.
In keeping with physicist Karen Barad’s suggestion that “matter is …not a thing, but a doing,” we propose to explore fashion and the body as vital phenomena that perform, communicate and relate.
For Barad, “relata do not preexist relations.” What appear to be separate categories: human/nonhuman, male/female, self/other, etc. are in fact, appearances that manifest when an “agential cut enacts a local resolution within the phenomenon of the inherent ontological indeterminacy.”
The photograph is the cut. Film, through its suturing of frames, offered us the illusion of time based phenomena as “things” in space.
VR can act as a lab for trying out new relations and exploring the tenacity of certain relations. In our exhibition/game/performance space, we explore this by having the visitor choose and don a wearable avatar, quite literally becoming the art and moving through the environment–becoming de facto performers (thanks Judith Butler! )Quite simply desire moves you toward something. Aversion moves you away. Sometimes you are caught looking.
In Fairytales, you go where you are not allowed, Goldilocks, Jack up the Beanstalk. As a child, there is that sense of shame. You feel it for them because they broke the rules. The late great Eve Sedgwick wrote an amazing essay with Adam Frank called “Shame in the Cybernetic Fold”.
“Shame is one of those affects whose digitalizing mechanism works to “punctuat[e the system] as distinct.” Perhaps, along with contempt and disgust, it can
be a switch point for the individuation of imaging systems, of consciousnesses,
of bodies, of theories, of selves, an individuation that decides not necessarily an
identity but a figuration, distinction, or mark of punctuation. And unlike
contempt or disgust, shame is characterized by its failure ever to renounce its
object cathexis, its relation to the desire for pleasure as well as the need to avoid
Maybe that’s what we are getting at.
We literally construct an edifice around the photographs of amateur models wearing Loise Braganza’s marvelous “queer skin” fashions. Thus, your viewing the photograph begins as a peepshow and your movement into the interior, an undressing of sorts. But, of course, there is no original. There is no naked version of an image or an artwork. We clothe images in memory, personal and cultural expectations and taboos. The baroque gets at this.
Excited to report that we received final photographs from collaborating artist Tagger Yancey, IV for our “In My Own Skin” project. As many of you know, much of the art we make explores the ways that technology, specifically VR, can offer visitors the opportunity to “try-on” different ways of knowing and connecting with others. We then extend that into the physical world through installation and objects. This donning of a different “self” in VR led to my wanting to create actual garments. In the midst of a pandemic, across thousands of miles, we have had the joy of collaborating, over the past year, with textile designer Loise Braganza to create 20 unique garments which amateur models were asked to choose from and wear. Most of the photography took place in the model’s own home. With Covid, communication through a touchable, physical object became that much more urgent. Loise’s focus on texture and ornamental detail became a form of touch, creating a visceral intimacy between viewer and model. We are planning an interactive exhibition in VRChat that will truly be unlike any other viewing experience of photography that you have ever had. You, yourself, will become a performer in the space, donning a customized avatar wearing one of the garments–a “queer skin”. Your movement through the exhibition spaces becomes a literal undressing of the photograph. Really pushing the edge of VR/game/performance/and photography. Can’t wait to show you what we have planned.
In the meantime, enjoy these. Just beautiful work: intimacy, embodiment, texture, and “touch.”
writing from Rikers
This morning, my can of cat food was confiscated at Rikers, you know because a can, in the right hands, is a weapon, (technically, correct). But it’s 8 AM and it pisses me off because I’m working the Covid unit at Rikers and, honestly, I love giving the feral kitties food. I thank my lucky stars that so many have let me bring in that potential weapon. But, I can’t let it go so I say. “It’s this little bit of humanity, coming to the jail, feeding the cats.” And, the officer agrees, but it’s now on camera. So, after I put it in a locker, I say to no one in particular, “You know the world is going to hell in a hand-basket. And ,the Mental health clinician coming through the metal detector says, “yeah, I know.” I say, the good news is that come the apocalypse, as a doctor, I’m gold. So stick with me.” She laughs and says, “yeah, I know.”
Last chance to experience Reconstructing Mayakovsky, our groundbreaking interactive “novel” put out in 2008, included in the 2nd volume of the Electronic Literature Collection and still being taught at the university level. It has been an amazingly good run, but obsolescence is a key mechanic operative in the work. The archive, which has linked not downloaded information, has slowly been collecting 404 errors.
The investment video (adapted from a particularly disturbing real DARPA conference slide show) which got picked up by real investment sites when we posted to Youtube with #future #investment #money #science #AI has been buried by 13 years of cat videos, the real time Google image search has been broken for a while. So, you will have to imagine for yourself what “hope” and “evil” and “human” look like.
We were always interested in keeping time as part of the novel and with time comes mortality and change. Mayakovsky is about the impossible dream of the end of history, the final number, the solitary genius artist, the vile absurdity of war. It’s a work, a kind of sci-fi detective story, that utilizes mostly open source code and “found” digital objects. The original 90,000 words of text (a lot of which is appropriated) is read through a series of “mechanisms” including a manifesto, a concrete poetry machine, a hand-drawn animation created in collaboration with Pelin Kirca, and an audio soundscape.
For our part, we hope RM can live on in printed form. The book then becomes the artifact that remains, the bones of something that was once alive. We are looking for a publisher, yes!
This project remains remarkable. Honestly, I look at it and wonder how in the hell we managed to do it. So, maybe some student or computer whiz will be interested in reconstructing Reconstructing Mayakovsky? Remaking it and adding, changing, or remixing? That would make us very happy. And, Mayakovsky, too. We could also see this as a physical and virtual installation if some forward thinking gallery is interested.
Here is Vera X. our heroine, (the main characters are Vera, Nadja, and Luis Blue– for those of you who know Russian, there is a thought puzzle there, and a clue, like everything in the novel… ) Here, is when Vera decides to resurrect Mayakovsky as a virtual being to save OnewOrld, even though she knows it may kill her. Is it an act of heroism, faith, or crazy despair? You get to decide.
“She does not want annihilation. She wants the center to hold, she wants it even in the face of knowing that it may not. That is courage, she thinks. That is love. No longer can she proceed into the future secure in the knowledge that parallel lines do not meet, that the sky will not fall, that the dead will not rise. She cannot say, ‘These things do not happen and it is good that they do not.’ Because the sky did fall and the dead did rise and things happen with poetic synchronicity. She is seeking neither the mechanized assurances of reason nor the feverish augury of faith, but something beautiful and fragile and incomparable.”
The last word of the novel–there is no last word online! ) is “yes.”
Happy New Year All!
We would love to make Sebastian’s diary, the basis for the Peabody Award winning Queerskins: a love story and Queerskins: ARK VR experiences, into an intimate audio experience. As I learned in making Queerskins: a novel, the human voice–its timbre, paralinguistic qualities, even the length of pauses change the psychological impact of words. I had to slash and burn the audio monologues because they utterly overwhelmed the text of the diary.
Here is a quick version of what a daily podcast delivered to your inbox might sound like (<5min) perfect for waiting for a coffee or walking to the grocery store or as an adult bedtime story.
In this monologue spoken by Michael DeBartolo, Sebastian recounts his seduction of Jean-Marie at a bar in Mali. Tango music taken from a 78 record from the Internet Archive. Bamako sounds from Freesound.org.
SXSW PanelPicker® #VR #XR #womenintech #womeninfilm #emotion http://disq.us/t/3ssklin
Interested in #Volumetric Video for creating #emotionally impactful #immersive and #interactive #stories? Upvote me, the amazing Nonny de la Pena @ImmersiveJourno and @jason_waskey @MSFTVolumetric.
Thanks for your support!
Queer in My Own Skin is a photography series and interactive virtual installation that asks what does it mean to feel at home in your own skin, or not? Over the past nine months, we have collaborated with Loise Braganza, a Mumbai based textile artist to create 20 unique garments which, act as “soft machines” through which the wearer confronts their relationship to personal identity, gender, sexuality, taste and body size and form.
Collaborating with artist/photographer Tagger Yancey IV, we will photograph models of all different races, ages, genders, sexual orientations and body types to choose and wear a garment that reflects who they are. He will capture people intimately in their own domestic space, “at home in their own skin.” For some it will be a part of themselves they never show and it will feel unnerving or scary, for others it will feel perfectly natural ,and for some empowering.
These garments emphasize tactility, an experience which is effaced in digital spaces and which has been constrained by the pandemic. Our plan is to integrate physical and digital installations, and, in this way, allow visitors to actively consider what is lost and gained as we transition into virtual existence.
Queer in My Own Skin exhibition in VRChat features a bespoke gallery/play space in which visitors can not only view the photographs, they can discover and don customized avatars wearing these garments. In this way, they, themselves, become performative works of art. Architecture and spatial sound create an experience of embodiment as visitors climb, crawl and maneuver through spaces to discover the avatars.
We will also create a more traditional installation with printed photographs and reconstructed mannequins wearing “queer skins.” Photographs will be available for purchase as limited editions. The reconfigured mannequins wearing the garments will be sold as unique, one of a kind, artworks. If conditions permit, we would consider a live fashion show in the space as well.
In addition to these, visitors to the gallery will be able to access the virtual exhibition via Oculus Quest headset. In the virtual installation, they can don the custom avatars and can photograph or take videos of themselves in this space and share on social media channels. These avatars will be sold as limited edition, fully rigged avatars compatible with multiple virtual spaces. Audiences with any VR headset or a PC can access the virtual installation remotely.
We are looking for gallery, corporate, institutional and private partners for this. Please contact through this site or through Cloudred Studio.
We are so tired of this. Queerskins: a love story and Queerskins: ARK have been rejected from SteamVR store. Everyone talks about diversity and inclusion but we have to deal with this all the time. (not even a mention on the blog when Queerskins got released on Oculus store either) There is almost NO queer content in VR, certainly nothing that shows anything with even a hint of sexuality. Happy to have a discussion with anyone in power. The silence is deafening.
I’m a doctor who works at Rikers Island, (in addition to being a woman director in a male heavy club), so I have to deal with some pretty tough conditions. But, at the end of the day, fighting the boys in tech who own the platforms is what really exhausts me. It is so utterly pointless and demoralizing. STEAMVR there are queer people and, yes, even, lots of straight people, who want to play these experiences because they are incredibly well-made, provocative, and groundbreaking in their use of volumetric video and interactive narrative.
Peabody Futures of Media Award, Games 4 Change XR Finalist, Venice and Tribeca premieres, Venice VR lab alums, funding by Sundance and Tribeca Film Institutes and support from a major corporation and we still have to deal with this. If you have some power in XR, please be an ally, thanks. Illya
Not the usual. #sex & #death #transcendence #love #guilt #shame #allthefeels in #VR #wonder #dance #choreography #Virtual #embodiment