More info on test performance of It’s Just What You Do

The TL;DR is that at 7pm on 23rd March at Barnsley Civic Theatre, there is going to be a live reading of an interactive play that I’m working on. This is a hybrid event that you can also join online – either way it’s free, with an opportunity to donate. It’s part of a night of test performances covering themes such as Long COVID, mental health, and speculative fiction – I’ve pasted some information about the other pieces below, all of which I’m really excited to see.

I find it difficult to talk or write about the thing I’m working on right now without a) getting really deep into the theory, which is immediately offputting, or b) becoming overwhelmed and dysregulated, because this project brings up really big feelings and unrealistically big ambitions. Actually, that’s probably why I’m theorising it so much, it’s a defense mechanism. When that guy said “Start With Why” I don’t think he meant “start with a dozen paragraphs about social constructivism, neuroqueerness, justice-oriented affect theory, and transmedia intertextuality”.

So, to keep it simple: my dream is to eventually make a series of interactive stories about transdimensional anthropologists, who have been implanted in our world to observe how we humans are collectively constructing our present reality. Even the identity and conscious experience of the anthropologist is shaped by the society in which they have been implanted. I have a hunch that there’s something particularly rewarding about making these stories in the form of interactive theatre, where the audience is directly shaping the protagonist’s actions.

In this play, called “It’s Just What You Do’, Cass learns that they are one of these transdimensional beings, and makes contact with Iris, their supervisor at the research institute that put them here. Naturally, they are furious about being given the odious assignment of existing in our world. It’s a comedy, but it’s literally about not wanting to be here anymore, so please consider your mental health when engaging with this piece.


Joining via video call, the supervisor Iris is played by Francesca Forristal (they/them), also known as award-winning drag king Christian Adore. Forristal’s work ranges from period dramas (Netflix’s Blood, Sex, and Royalty, ’22 and BBC’s Marie Antoinette, season 2), feminist horror-movies, a queer Victorian animation series (for Amazon Prime), and a musical on the West End (Public Domain, ’21). They currently have shows in development with Disney Plus and Heartstopper’s SeeSaw. Learn more at

On stage in Barnsley is the agent Cass, played by Xander Graves (he/him, they/them). Xander is an actor who loves to experiment with different mediums, and has most recently been involved with Sheffield Theatres as part of the Young Company (this is how I met them!) as well as Sheffield People’s Theatre. Xander is exploring opportunities to explore their art and discover new and exciting things to do within the industry, whether that be continuing on the stage or moving closer to TV and Film. Follow them at @xandergravesactor on Instagram.

Other performances

Beth Crackles – STABLE

STABLE is a true story about family, domestic abuse, mental health, horse dealing, vets… and uncontrollable laughter. It asks the audience to consider the lasting impact of domestic abuse on the adult that grows from the child who has experienced it.

Erin Marsh – Hopefully, Maybe

The universe is slowly freezing, all its energy burned out. Work together with other audience members to keep a constellation alight.

This interactive text-based performance explores community in an isolated world, working to achieve a common goal in the face of inevitability.

Alanna Wilson – Life 7.0

Life 7.0 mixes bouffon, movement and digital performance to explore an absurd dystopian reality where a group of people live and work in a simple utopia. This piece also draws on inspiration from classic 60s/70s sci-fi movies, the rise of tech start-up companies and the notion of Ayn Rand’s objectivism influence on the world today.

Verity Richards – Long

In the curious loophole of not being “disabled enough” sits Verity. And 2.3 million other people.

Using testimony and recordings from the Long Covid community, Long explores the ache of losing your identity, the whacky world of self-medication and the joy of finding a new life in the club no one wanted to join.


Test performance of new interactive play

I’m currently working on a new piece of interactive theatre that uses the tool that Squinky built in our collaboration together a couple of years ago. There will be a test performance on 23rd March at Barnsley Civic theatre, alongside other live works covering themes such as chronic illness and dystopian science fiction – the event is going to be hybrid online and in-person, and tickets are currently available for in-person attendees.

A short piece of interactive theatre about righteous queer anger, the psychosocial factors that contribute to chronic illness, and the utter absurdity of having to perform as a person. The protagonist has realised that they are not an ordinary human – they are a transdimensional being, who has been sent to live as a human for a while in order to carry out anthropological research. In this short play, they have their first meetings via video call with their supervisor, who explains their assignment and tries to train them in research methods. Unfortunately, the anthropologist is unhappy with their assignment, and demands to be reassigned to a different reality, ideally one where the dominant species does not seem to have lost the ability to solve its own problems.

I’m having a lot of fun designing the interface for this one so that it looks like we’re seeing the protagonist’s laptop screen – here’s a preview of the current work in progress

Paper on livecoding and collaboration

Through a strange turn of events, I’m one of the authors on a collaborative paper about collaboration in livecoding performances that was made public this week. I’m a total novice in this field, and my main role in this paper was assisting the discussion and organising the information in the Google doc – the really cool thing about the paper is that it synthesises (haha) ideas from a very large number of people who are at the forefront of an incredibly exciting live digital art scene.

Aside from being someone who enjoys noodling around with livecoding music, I’m also a person who is doing a PhD in STS (Science and Technology Studies; this is when humanities people study scientists in a similar way to how anthropologists study groups of people. My PhD more or less applies this lens to game developers). So what was interesting to me about this paper was the discussion of how things and people connect to one another. How are hierarchies enacted through technology and through social arrangements? It was particularly gratifying to see the discussion include not just technical implementations, but also issues around venue spaces and event organising.

There was also something brilliant about this little project from the perspective of art practice. Just this week, I was chatting with people about how the formalised practice of “critique” in the art world can be really quite harsh and violent, as though some people become Simon Cowell for a moment in the name of being “critical”. I think this paper does something quite interesting, where a group of artists critique their own scene, habits, and practices – the very same event that hosted the discussion is the main target of criticism in this paper, which is co-written by the event organiser. Criticism in this paper involves looking for both problems and opportunities, and most crucially, it is about figuring out how best to achieve a set of shared goals, rather than about listing all the reasons the object of criticism is “bad, actually”.

So yeah! This paper is a thing that exists, and it’s quite rough and flawed in some ways, but I’m excited in many ways about what it gestures towards. It’s open access, so you can read it here.

Montez Press Radio


I kind of threw together an hour-long audio documentary over the past couple of weeks. It turns out this is very difficult! You can listen to it at tomorrow at 6pm New York time (that’s 11pm here in the UK). It’s about VR and emotions, and also the body, and there’s a bit about the ethics of mindfulness technologies, and another bit about being inside of a dollhouse that your friends can furnish… it’s pretty unprofessionally-made, but I think it’s a good time.

Call for participants: UK interviews with transgender people for interactive documentary installation about experiences of waiting

I am looking to interview more transgender people across the UK for my next art project. Details are below, but if you need any more information please do not hesitate to reach out. Please share this with anyone who you think might be interested!

Project information


“Cis Penance” aims to use videogame-like installations to draw attention to issues affecting transgender people in the UK, with a particular focus on how institutional and social structures alter our relationship to time and our life paths, through lengthy waiting processes. Interviews with 60 transgender people from around the UK will be represented as interactive text, projected onto a long, embroidered e-textile portraying people waiting in a queue. Kind of a queer cybertwee Bayeux tapestry. Anyone interested in being interviewed is welcome to contact me:


This project builds on my previous work, “Interactive portraits: trans people in Japan 2018“, which has toured exhibitions and festivals, including Docfest, Now Play This, and the Rainbow Arcade exhibition at the Schwules Museum in Berlin. Whereas that project featured 12 interviews carried out in Japan, this new project aims to incorporate 60 interviews carried out in different locations in the UK.

Participant information

The format I use makes anonymity very easy to achieve, as I do not use interview audio in the final piece and I do not record video footage. Interviewees’ physical appearances will not be portrayed in the installation piece, instead represented by one of 60 abstract embroidered figures. Interviewees can choose to use their real name, an existing pseudonym that they might use online, or a randomly-assigned pseudonym. My interview method focuses on allowing participants to set the agenda, to reflect the kinds of topics that actually come out in conversations between trans people, rather than directing the conversation to serve cisgender curiosity.

Interview information

Interviews will last about 45 minutes. I aim to carry them out in person where possible, but Skype interviews will be carried out when travel is not feasible. They will be recorded as audio only, and transcribed into text extracts for the interactive work. Audio recordings will not be used in the final installation piece, but interviewees can opt in to allowing the audio to be used in accompanying multimedia materials. The recordings might be archived in a museum or library collection at some point, to preserve them for the historical record.

Interviewees are welcome to participate without talking about their transition. I use an open-ended format that gives the interviewee autonomy over the topics of discussion, but questions I might ask to help things along could include:

  • How do you see yourself?
  • What brings you satisfaction in life?
  • What aspects of your life would you like to be different?
  • What challenges do you face in making this happen?
  • How have things changed for you in the past few years?

Dates and contact

I hope to complete most interviews by 15th March 2020. (Update July 2020) Most interviews have been done, but I am still trying to get a few more. I’ve been doing more interviews with BAME people lately, and I’m keen to continue to make sure this project reflects the concerns and needs of intersectionally marginalised trans people. If you are interested in participating, please contact me at

SPACE Ilford grand opening

The lovely folks at SPACE studios in London have opened a new space in Ilford, and have kindly let me come and do a residency with them in Spring of next year, as part of their Art + Tech programme.


In the mean time, events are already happening, as other artists-in-residence get started exploring and playing in this new location. This Saturday there will be a Grand Opening event at the Ilford location:

  • Sat 7 Dec 12-4pm
  • SPACE Ilford
  • 10 Oakfield Rd., Ilford IG1 1ZJ

I’ll be there with the other Art + Tech folks showing some small pieces of work, and it’s also the opening of a remarkable exhibition of colourful, gothic, cute-grotesque work by Lindsey Mendick:


The following Tuesday evening, Art + Tech artist in residence Minna Långström is running The Prime Directive, which looks to me like a sort of LARP inspired by utopian science fiction? Seems very cool.

I’ll be in London for my artist-in-residence period from 7th April until 29th June. Give me a shout if you know of anywhere weird I can live, or any fancy parties you want me to attend – worth asking, right?

Postmortem: Hanging textile for Interactive Portraits by Anne Smithies

In the post about Festival of the Mind Futurecade, I mentioned this collaboration with Anne Smithies on a gorgeous, huge textile to accompany my interactive portraits. I first approached Anne about this because of a chat I had in Tokyo with Zep, the maker of the Pico-8 platform that I’ve been working with to make these small software pieces – we were chatting about how a particular graphics feature he’d introduced to the platform a few months earlier was giving works a textile-like quality to them, as you could now build landscapes out of 4×4 repeating pixel patterns. When the Crossover Labs people asked me if I could think of some way to blow up the works to something large-scale that could take up more space in the room, the first thing I thought of was textile arts like crosstitch, knitting, or patchwork. I brought this to Anne, an artist who does a lot of work with textiles, has a giant quilting machine, and does a lot of mixed-media art depicting animals – an important theme, since most of the portraits take animal form. Anne suggested applique, which allowed her to combine repeating patterns with large circle shapes, which is a pretty faithful reproduction of how I’ve coded the portraits’ appearance.

The image I gave Anne to work with is the design for the portrait of Iriya. Iriya’s portrait is the first one I made that wasn’t based on an animal – I generally try to choose an animal that matches something related to a person’s story or a name they use online, but I couldn’t find anything in my interview with Iriya or in their online persona that corresponded to any kind of animal. Then I saw the Georgia O’Keefe painting shown above in an exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, and something clicked. I was really moved by the image of this small being with a huge aura, nestled in an imposing landscape. A lot of things changed when I translated this image into the circle-and-pattern-based system I’m using for the portraits, and I still wanted Iriya to have facial expressions like everyone else, so I made the little glowing being a bit bigger. Anne took this image, and re-inserted colour in the applique process, which ended up bringing it to a good middle spot between the stark black environment of that one portrait, and the very colourful appearance of some of the others.

Photograph by Festival of the Mind

There are so many surprising little details that Anne incorporated into this piece that I won’t be able to remember them all. She took a load of old computer keycaps that I’ve been collecting and made them into buttons for the text panels, which are detachable – this way, as the interactive portraits tour spaces with different dimensions, the textile can adapt to fill the space differently. We had a whole conversation about which keys on the keyboard are a good fit for the theme, and which are too on-the-nose (we decided that the “shift” and “alt” keys were good, but “m” “t” and “f” were not). The character’s shadow is made of reflective fabric, so that when the textile is photographed with flash it seems to light up. Anne even made sure that her giant quilting machine would follow a route that resembled a circuit board, so that when seen from the back the piece still has interesting visual features that reference its digital origins. One of the most striking features is a result of Anne using vinyl printing to create a very rigid overlay with digital accuracy on the soft fabrics – I think that’s what really makes this piece look like a hybrid between pixel art and patchwork, and makes it into something that I never would have imagined.

I was attracted to the idea of a textile piece because I thought the traditional features of weaving textiles had an intrinsic similarity to the features of coding patterns in Pico-8 (a connection that was certainly inspired by Emilie Reed’s article on the historical link between weaving and coding) so to be honest, the idea of using vinyl printing made me slightly uncomfortable at first. I had this prejudice in my mind about it, like maybe printing is a bit contrived or inauthentic? But nothing Anne does is either of those things, so I trusted that she was onto something, and I am so glad I did.

One of the greatest joys in my life is letting go of my preconceived ideas, so that my eyes are open to something beautiful and fresh, that I could never have seen through my old conceptual goggles. The precision and flatness of the vinyl ended up being very important to this work, and made it into much more than a piece of textile art inspired by a piece of digital art. It’s actually something new, that clearly has a place in both mediums.

Mozilla Festival

My work is being displayed at Mozilla festival, for the Art + Data exhibition.

The Art+Data experience — part of the Mozilla Artists Open Web project — engages artists, designers, technologists, and researchers in an artistic exploration of a healthy web. With an online gallery ( and an exhibition during MozFest, Art+Data will also feature artists in residencies (on site and online) and creative, interactive sessions. Thirty-six art projects will be showcased, and all (including digital and analogue processes) will focus on data knowledge and usage. They also link to the five festival issues of privacy & security, digital inclusion, web-literacy, open innovation, and decentralisation.

They’ll be showing three of my interactive portraits of trans people in Japan – lo-fi experiences made in 8-bit fantasy console Pico-8 that represent real interviews that I carried out during a residency earlier this year. They were also displayed at Festival of the Mind recently, so to learn more you should check out my blog post about that. Also relevant to my interests is the Queering Mozfest experience, which brings together a number of pieces related to the queer internet.


You can check out all of the exhibited pieces in person at Ravensbourne University London, near the O2 arena, 26 – 28 Oct 2018. Or, check them out online, along with the gorgeous exhibition catalogue, right here: