SHEFFIELD call for interviews for transgender interactive documentary

In one week, I’ll be part of a show at Site Gallery in Sheffield with other artists on the Freelands programme. The show will run until the end of the month, and while I’m there, I hope to carry out interviews with local transgender people, for a forthcoming project with a working title of “Cis Penance”. I’m very keen to hear from anyone who might be interested in being interviewed – please check out the details below!

Project information

Overview

“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: zoyander@gmail.com

Background

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. The Sheffield interviews will be carried out in a comfy part of the Site Gallery show, which will be made a bit secluded using some curtains. 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 interview around 15 transgender people in Sheffield, ideally before August 25th. There is also time available after October 28th until the end of the year. Anyone interested in being interviewed can contact me using zoyander@gmail.com.

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Arts Council Project Grant for “Empty Carriage: An Interactive Self-Portrait”

coach pram.jpg
Coach-built pram in Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

I’ve been awarded an Arts Council Project Grant to turn a vintage coach-built pram into a games console. I’m making a game for it that uses my interactive portraits approach to portray myself. Whereas my other interactive portraits are based on interviews, this one is based instead on a guided inquiry to see through the illusion of self.

Using multiple-choice dialogue options, players will ask the mini-me a series of questions that prompt an examination of every aspect of consciousness, turning over every phenomenological stone to try and find any sign that there is really a “me”. If I can make it work, the interface is probably going to use some interactive textiles, so that the player chooses questions by stroking a blanket. I’m also going to try to build it using a mini-projector, so that the whole thing feels soft and tactile.

I’ll be displaying this at the Platform exhibition at Site Gallery in August, and I’m hoping to take the pram out for a couple of walks this summer as well. This week I’m going on a bit of an adventure to a remote village in North Yorkshire to buy a pram from the 1930s that actually looks a lot like the one from Rosemary’s Baby.

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BELFAST call for interviews for transgender interactive documentary

I’m going to Belfast between 24th June and 11th July to spend some time at the PS2 art space. While I’m there, I hope to carry out interviews with local transgender people, for a forthcoming project with a working title of “Cis Penance”. I’m very keen to hear from anyone who might be interested in being interviewed – please check out the details below!

Project information

Overview

“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: zoyander@gmail.com

Background

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. The Belfast interviews will be carried out in the Paragon Studios space. 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 interview around 15 transgender people while I am in Belfast between 24th June and 11th July. Anyone interested in being interviewed can contact me using zoyander@gmail.com.

AMAZE Berlin events, including talk with Squinky!

I’ll be in Berlin next week for some cool events connected to the Rainbow Arcade exhibition at the Schwules Museum, as part of AMAZE festival. Come along and/or let me know if you want to hang out!

Rainbow Arcade meetup

Monday, April 8 • 14:00 – 18:00

Not sure I can get to this with my flight, but thought I would list it here anyway as it looks nice – details are on the Games Week Berlin website.

Something on Wednesday

To be announced, I guess?

Queer Gaming History chat

Thursday, April 11 • 19:00 – 20:00 (curator tour at 18:00)

I’m having an informal public talk thing with one of my favourite people, Squinky! Details on the AMAZE schedule page. Right before this is the curator tour, which they do every week – Details on the Schwules Museum website.

 

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 (https://foundation.mozilla.org/opportunity/artists-open-web) 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.

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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: https://foundation.mozilla.org/en/opportunity/artists-open-web/

 

Festival of the Mind

Last month, the first five of my interactive portraits were included in Futurecade in the Sheffield Millennium Gallery, as part of the University of Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind. These are kind of like a cross between Tamagotchi and an RPG dialogue system, and they present dialogue taken verbatim from interviews I carried out with transgender people in Japan as part of the Creator Ikusei residency. I’m going to make 13 in total, six of which are supported by Arts Council funding via the Making Ways project.

An estimated 10,000 people attended Futurecade over the course of a week (I’ll get final attendance figures soon), and it was really a thrill to see so many people encounter this work. It’s a difficult time for the public conversation about trans rights in the UK, so it seems more important than ever to put trans people’s stories into public spaces. One person remarked, “this is incredible! There are so many people I want to show this to … emotive and enjoyable and thought provoking.”

The installation looked more striking than anything I’ve done so far, and that’s because I got talented people to help me with it. Brendan Vance improved the UI, and overhauled the code for me so that the pieces wouldn’t crash in unpleasant or boring ways (mysterious glitches I can live with quite happily, and we left plenty of those in there). Jack Lyus built the plinths for me, out of e-waste sourced from local social enterprise Bitfixit, who also gave me three out of the five computers running the pieces. Making use of computers that would otherwise go into landfill is increasingly important to me lately, and Bitfixit were incredibly generous with the machines they’ve gradually accrued over the years that they haven’t been able to find new homes for. Jack is incredibly practical and creative, and did a great job giving the plinths a sculptural quality with a gallery-ready finish.

That incredible hanging piece you can see in the photos is a quilt made by Anne Smithies. I commissioned Anne to make a giant version of one of the characters, in part inspired by a conversation I’d had in Tokyo earlier this year with Zep, who makes Pico-8, the platform on which the interactive portraits are built. We were talking about how as it reaches its final release, Pico-8 is taking on almost textile-like qualities, because of the way it handles patterns. I’ve been playing up those qualities a lot in my design of the portraits, so I wanted to emphasise that even more by having the banner be a textile piece, rather than just a big digital print. Anne took that idea and ran with it in ways I couldn’t have imagined, and she ended up blending pixel art and traditional quiltmaking into something new that I’ve never seen before. Also, the character is made of reflective material, so if you photograph it with flash it lights up!

There are still many more portraits to finish, and more things that I want to finesse as they find new places to tour and be exhibited. Although I’ve set them up to use NES controllers, the simplest game controllers you can get hold of, these still require some knowledge of basic videogame design conventions to be used properly – people who have never played a videogame before are inclined to press the “start” button to start playing, and press the “select” button to select options on screen, both of which bring up a console menu that I don’t want them playing with. Having volunteers minding the exhibition helped, because the volunteers were trained in how to instruct people to use the pieces – and also, incidentally, in how to calm the pieces down when they start glitching out in ways that are expected behaviour, but still not ideal for usability. I like that aspect of the pieces needing minders, but it’s not always going to be realistic when in every situation they might be installed in.

There also weirder things that I want to do with this – in particular, building on the design style Anne has established with this quilt, and working together on more textile elements of the installation. I’m hoping to get funding to do something cuddly, that also solves the game controller issue, and provides an alternative to the big plinths and old desktop computers, which I won’t be able to transport very far!

 

Interactive Portraits updates from February-May