Performance and social practice creating international queer/trans community through virtual embodiment. I use a VR headset, controllers and a set of 8 body worn trackers to map my body into a virtual avatar and virtual world. Using live streaming and social media, I interact with an audience via a handheld virtual camera and live chat. I play the role of a wide-eyed cat girl or demon girl lost in the wonder of bodily imagination and possibility that both transness and virtual reality offer. I also tell stories from my life, being trans, and my thoughts on embodiment, art, spirituality and community. I describe myself as a witch or demon to evoke the spectre of a trans lesbian who turns herself into different forms beyond social control. The international,mostly queer and trans audience is in their 20s and 30s. Within a legacy of right-wing take overs of online gaming spaces, public queer and trans communities like this are avenues of deradicalization and discovering collective power.
After several hundred hours spent in virtual reality and live streaming I wanted to go deeper into the experience. I wanted a virtual body of my own and a way of tracking my hips and legs and feet so I could move them correspondingly on my VR avatar. I learned to solder, 3d print, and code to make the motion trackers based on the open source project “SlimeVR.” The avatar is entirely from scratch in the open source software Blender. It is a demon girl in the anime-ish style of many of the avatars and worlds on the virtual reality platforms VRChat and ChilloutVR. The avatar has a cyber goth aesthetic with a early-2000s, colorful iMac era body mod beginning to engulf her whole figure from the hip. It’s meant to evoke connections between abandoned tech futures and the unrealized timelines of trans bodies denied language and transition. On a practical side, I now own the licensing and copyright to the avatar allowing me to produce video and performance in earnest.
A half hour improvised, collaborative performance for Brooklyn Rail livestream with Joey De Jesus (reading, live samples), Leila Ortiz (reading), B Taylor (vocals and clarinet), and myself (handheld analog synth, live samples).
This is a section from midway through the performance. The text sampled and read by Joey and Leila is from my poems “Start by Sleeping” and “Stretch the Grid Over My Skin.”and myself (handheld analog synth, live samples). This is a section from midway through the performance. The text sampled and read by Joey and Leila is from my poems “Start by Sleeping” and “Stretch the Grid Over My Skin.”
Set in the chapel-like room of the Brancusi gallery in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I created a sound and audio environment to hold a 40-minute, improvised performance of myself and four collaborators: poets Laura Neuman and Sekai’afua Zankel and dancers Vitche-Boul Ra and Meg Foley. The audience and performers are illuminated by the flickering of a video projection distorted across the arched ceiling. For the projection I filmed the stark edges of Brancusi’s sculptures and lines of museum interpretation. Turning the recessed sculptures into distorted, moving images I broke open the haunting power of figure and body in Brancusi’s works and disoriented their arrangement in space. For the live sound, I played and then sampled a large scientific tuning fork through a guitar amp, distorting the tone into body rumbling noise. I then read two of my poems about death and the Garden of Eden into the reverberant space. This is the opening segment of the performance.