My Talk at Games for Change on “#Aesthetics and #Empathy: Why #Art Matters”

Really happy with the response to my talk today.

” Wonderful, especially drawing inspiration from Bergson, Lakoff & Johnson, Damasio, Baudrillard!” was one comment.

Also, Hilma af Klint, Sarah Ahmed, Jakob von Uexkull and Marshall McLuhan…Since I have no tech or art background, I feel free to draw on and seek inspiration from a range of sources. I really wish I could teach at the university level, but my M.D. doesn’t go far in academia and institutions are, often, unfortunately, very resistant to new ideas. The thing is, I love teaching and students really enjoy my style and mind (I taught narrative VR design at Independent Film Producers Center in NYC, the student clapped after almost every class…) So, if you are game, hit me up!

I’m going to post my slides and a draft of my paper (warning–this was not for publication, so expect spelling mistakes and grammatical errors) and eventually, I’m sure G4C will post the talk on YouTube. Thanks to all who attended. If you are free, please stop by the Expo (free, but you need to register )–I’ll be taking your questions from 11-12:30 tomorrow at the Queerskins: Ark virtual booth. And from 1:30 -2PM I will be in wild conversation with Queerskins’ actor Michael DeBartolo talking queerness, dance, VR, bodies and more. He’ll do some live readings from Sebastian’s diary, too. Join the conversation!

I’m also excited that Queerskins: ARK is garnering interest in academia! It’s really great when people think your work is important enough to actually do an in-depth analysis and publish a paper on it. Thank you!

Queerskins: ARK 360˚ Version Comes to Oculus TV

Oculus decided that for Pride Month Queerskins is worthy of mention! We wish it were not just for Pride, but, we will take it. The good news is that it means is that YOU can see a 360˚ video version of Queerskins: ARK on your Quest on Oculus TV . Beautiful performances by Hadley Boyd, Michael DeBartolo and Christopher Vo. It is not the same as the interactive obviously, but as far as I know, the only pas de deux between two men in VR–intimate, sexy, joyful, sublime. Exquisite score by Wilbert Roget, II. Carl Nassib, this one is for you. Visibility matters. Love wins!

Join Me @G4C Talk on #Aesthetics and #Empathy

You could go to the Unity for Humanity panel Monday July 12th at 1:30 PM at the Games for Change Festival or you could geek out on my talk where I’ll argue that aesthetics are critical to empathy and may actually be the nature of reality. Think Bergson, queer phenomenology, Kojeve’s end of history, Heidegger’s broken hammer and mirror neurons. I’ll be expanding on points in our recent paper published in The International Journal of New Media, Technology and the Arts. Join me!!

Our paper “Empathy as Aesthetic Sympathy in VR: Lessons from Queerskins: ARK” has been published


We describe the design of Queerskins: ARK, a virtual reality (VR) narrative artwork featuring pre-recorded 3D volumetrically rendered human dancers portraying same-sex lovers. Rather than adopt a more conventional perspective-taking, we created novel opportunities for connection and intimacy by utilizing a unique movement based language and a magical-realist aesthetic. The design process was aided by a series of prototyping exercises with live participants. In the final test, we found that all participants experienced positive emotions in the scenes where the gay couple appeared and felt more connected to the men, as measured by the inclusion of other in self (IOS) scale, than to the other main character (mother) who was presented in a more realistic way. Reviewing the history of empathy and relevant neuropsychological literature, we offer possible mechanisms for these findings and argue for broadening research into the ways aesthetics and movement could be used to promote empathy in VR.

We love thinking. We love sharing our ideas and design process so others can learn from our discoveries and mistakes. This takes a lot of time, and if you aren’t in academia, it doesn’t count for much on a CV, but we hope more artists make their creative processes public.

DM me for a copy. Also, yes, I am available for public talks at conferences or for guest lecturing spots at universities. I am a lively and out of the box thinker/speaker and I love doing it.

#Designing #Worlds in #VR a conversation with #architect Beom Jun Kim @wa.k_studio in #VRChat for @cphdox

Part 1/11 BJK and I discuss the potential and limitations of virtual spaces and architecture, in the “In My Own Skin” installation in “Community Labs” section of VRChat

It’s interesting to think about where architecture in VR is a proxy for “real life” and where it fails. Clearly touch and smell and the nuances of sounds in a space are generally missing. That is also one reason that I have found virtual exhibitions of art usually wanting because “reality” becomes the standard, the golden ring, and VR will never be the same as that. But, what if we saw this as an opportunity to see what VR makes possible such as walls that emit sound as you move by or that morph with proximity or distance?

In My Own Skin OPENS tomorrow at CPH: DOX

Words fail to capture who we are and who we can be.

You have never experienced a photography exhibition like this. We use a procedural “game” logic to create an installation which makes the experience of viewing the art, a critical part of the art, itself. In My Own Skin is a public world which you can find in the “Community Labs” section of “Worlds” in VRChat. You will need any VR headset, including Quest, or a PC and a free VRChat account to access. The installation features wearable avatars that you can choose between to proclaim who you are or who you would like to. be. Tickets fo live events are available here.

The plan, eventually, is to offer a full set of 20 avatars for you to choose from to proclaim your “true identity” as you explore our interactive photography installation “In My Own Skin” in VR Chat. Each line below will be emblazoned on a sleeveless t-shirt. I call these anti-Google categories of identity. And, standing together with your fellow performers you can form poem(s). At CPH: DOX, opening April 21, we will only have five, asterisked. This is really going into new territory for us and for our art. It takes a lot of time and we do it without pay. We are still learning, experimenting, processing. But, really, it is a beautiful, strange, strong, wondrous work. Please come by. You will be glad you did.

You see me, then

Everything I am not

scared, most days

Lying to myself


Memory of something

Snaking, seeping

Hiding, biding

Pink ribbons in my hair

*Something bursts

*(out )



*In Your Face

Braver than I was

I am,perhaps,


An other.

#Interactive Live #Event in #VR #Installation Featured @CPH:DOX premiere of #InMyOwnSkin

We are so excited to invite you into our new art work “In My Own Skin” that combines handmade “queer skins” –handmade garments– created as part of our collaboration with textile artist Loise Braganza that sit somewhere between costume and clothing. Beautiful photography by Tagger Yancey IV of amateur models who were asked to reveal a part of themselves by choosing one of the garments that best represented these attributes and be photographed in their own homes using natural light. In our virtual installation in VRChat, these portraits will be housed in archetypal edifices. The procedural logic of the installation, recapitulates the act of veiling and revealing. I can honestly say you have never seen photography this way. These portraits are certainly in conversation with drag but operate differently–not aping binaries, but finding a new materail language of wonder and beauty and difference. Opening in VRChat April 21st. For CDP: DOX, we will be performing live conversations with featured guests. Details on how you can participate SOON.

Mass-produced men’s underwear, silk ribbon with hand embroidery that can be worn curled up in the pocket or unfurled, found man’s t-shirt with hand embroidered cloth insert.

First up, the only one in Zoom (to celebrate trans visibility and for all you without headsets!) will be what will surely be a mind-expanding and delightful conversation with Alex: Gender Troubles in XR (and IRL): a Trans Perspective Gender, as Judith Butler notes, is performative. Virtual Reality offers the potential of subverting rigid binaries of gender and the association of gender with biology, a legacy of Victorian eugenic “science.” In this walk and talk, Alex talks about her experience as a trans model, actress and activist and the potential to alter our relationship to conventional notions of “maleness” and “female,” using selected photographs in the exhibition “In My Own Skin” as touch points. Alex will perform some of her powerful poetry live during the event.

The rest of the conversations will be in VRChat and space will be limited! Details soon!

Beom Jun Kim of wa.k studio joins me to discuss Space Matters: the Overlooked Importance of Architecture in XR. The importance of architecture and the relationship of physical space and in relation to the role of movement through space in VR has been under-recognized. Recent developments in neuro-aesthetics and embodied cognition have confirmed what architects have always known, that that the construction of space can radically shape human experience.

The artist as a young dog.

Actor Michael DeBartolo (Sebastian in Queerskins!) joins me to discuss Touch in the Time of Covid: Rethinking Intimacy in XR. The spatial and interactive affordances of Virtual Reality offer the opportunity to construct unexpected forms of intimacy, creating a kind of magic circle where, at least for a time, the conventional divisions that separate “us” and “other” don’t easily or simply apply. Actor Michael DeBartolo, who modeled for the exhibition, discusses his personal journey as a proud out gay man and activist through his work in VR. He will also be performing live monologues from Sebastian’s Diary. You do not want to miss this!

And I feel-
Is too small to fit me.
Someone inside me is getting smothered.
—Vladimir Mayakovsky, Cloud in Trousers, 1914

Textile artist and collaborator Loise Braganza will join me for “The Texture of Identity: Fashion and the Body in VR” Although digital spaces are being rapidly colonized by large corporations, often perpetuating existing political, social and economic inequalities, Mumbai based textile artist Loise Braganza, who created the garments for “In My Own Skin,” will explore how these spaces might become laboratories for rethinking our relationship to clothing, the body, identity, representation, sustainability, labor, and pleasure.

#InMyOwnSkin #VR #Interactive #Art #Installation to Premiere @cphdox

Angelo in one of Loise Braganza’s handmade “queer skins.” Photo by Tagger Yancey, IV

Excited to announce that our interactive virtual installation combining fashion, photography, and architecture will premiere April 21st at CPH: DOX. It will feature customized avatars that you wear into the space becoming a defacto model /performer. Huge thanks to Mark Atkin for having the vision and courage to curate us in. More news to come on gallery walk and talks we will be doing during the festival with special guests talking about gender, intimacy, fashion and architecture and XR.

Tomi, wearing the only “found” garment, a tiny negligee with rather bedraggled pink feathers.
A true NYC portrait in the Loise’s “Kate Moss” dress paired with the model’s handmade “FTP” bag.

We are pushing the boundaries of art and VR–making your movement through the installation an integral part of how the art functions. Our hope is that you leave wondering who am I? Could I be different? Could I be other, too?

Isaac wearing one of my favorites–the pink silk “pant” suit.