More characters added to Cis Penance

I just pushed a new update to Cis Penance, doubling the number of characters. It feels very satisfying to see a “queue” of people begin to form.

Including the 13 that are now shown in the work-in-progress, I have collected 45 interviews – this is the minimum I planned for, but I think more interviews would better show the scale of the issues that this piece aims to highlight. I want people who see the finished piece to be overwhelmed by the length of this queue, because it represents the waiting times that trans people face in the UK, and I want players to encounter more experiences of gender and life paths than they can possibly hold in their mind at once. Please check out the participant information and share this project with anyone who you think might be interested in contributing.

Cis Penance soundtrack out now

Liz Ryerson has just released the soundtrack that she created for Cis Penance! It’s twinkly and warm and stormy and lush. I strongly suggest that you buy it IMMEDIATELY, because it’s Bandcamp day, when the platform waives its revenue share and artists get all the money. gogogogogogogogo

Cis Penance update – seven characters, one world

I pushed a big update to Cis Penance today! Not only is the number of characters now up from 3 to 7, but also, the first hint of the main motif is finally coming through – the long queue of people, representing social and bureaucratic structures such as the waiting lists for Gender Identity Clinics. Also, there are now three different pieces of background music. Please give the new version a play and let me know what you think, especially if something looks wrong.

Also, I’m still looking for more interviewees, so please reach out (zoyander at gmail) if you’re a trans person in the UK (or from the UK, even if you’re currently living abroad).

Open City Documentary Festival Expanded Realities Exhibition

The work-in-progress of Cis Penance will be on display online this September as part of an exhibition for the Open City Documentary Festival.

We will host a mix of curated and newly commissioned work from artists and practitioners pushing the boundaries of interactive non-fiction storytelling. The exhibition will be free to access and available internationally from 9th – 15th September. A full micro-site that has been specially built to host the exhibition will launch soon.

I’m also excited to see the other work that will be included in the exhibition, including work by Jenny Jiao Hsia and Pol Clarissou. Jenny Hiao Hsia is representing the hands-on creativity that most people still are not aware of in videogames, by showing work made in Twine, Bitsy, and other open source game-making tools, as well as a game made for Flatjam. Pol Clarissou, whose previous work such as Orchids to Dusk has made my heart soar, is showing a Bitsy piece about moss and space – “moss as texture as space folding onto itself” uses lo-fi graphics and interactive poetry to draw you into the arts of noticing in a more-than-human living world.

The exhibition is free online from 9th-15th September, if you want to check it out!

Getting started with LED embroidery

As part of the Art + Tech residency with Space Studios, London (which they have kindly allowed me to do while continuing to “reside” in lockdown in Sheffield) I’m getting my head around LED embroidery at the moment, with the view to creating a very large piece this year for the Cis Penance interactive portraits project. I feel like I’ve got my head around the very basics now – what can electroconductive thread do as a material that both makes attractive shapes and also forms part of a system? How do some different ways of fixing traditional LEDs to fabric compare to one another? I learned quickly that improvising a circuit on-the-fly doesn’t work very well for me – even with this very simple circuit, things end up not working, and I don’t really understand why, so I do have to spend a couple of minutes sketching a design first so that I have set up a nice, clean path from power to ground. I always feel tickled when I end up filling a small sketchbook with ideas on a single theme. I’m not a trained artist, and when I do this exercise it feels like I’m temporarilty role-playing as one. I like the way ideas end up iterating on each other, getting more complex in a way that emerges from simplicity, rather than just getting really big in my head before I have any idea how to materialise them.
I started getting very excited about these simple graphical representations with thread that are just enhanced or enlivened by LEDs. It’s a very easy thing to do, and the results are quite dramatic. Meanwhile, I kind of fell out of love with one particular thing I did with the cosmonaut and the leaf, where the leg of the LED stays long and just loops back on itself enough to be secured in place. Although it’s nice to use the LED legs as part of the image, it’s very annoying to have them flapping about while you finish sewing the circuit in place, and they don’t always stay upright even after they’ve been sewn down. Curling them into tight loops is much more practical, though it can get in the way of the image as you see around the iris of the eye, so sometimes a compromise is probably best. Resistor values might be another thing to consider in the future. Using different resistors to deliberately vary the intensity of different LEDs could introduce some depth – or going the other way, LEDs of different colours or types do kind of need different resistor values in order to be as bright as one another. The next things I’ll be playing with are:
  • Beadwork embroidery techniques that best incorporate LEDs
  • Sewing solar light circuits to create embroidered LED nightlights
  • How to have multiple light circuits in one piece, so that different sets of lights can be switched on or off.

Panel talk at The Artist’s Journey #3

I’m excited to be speaking on a panel with Manish Harijan (artist) and Lady Kitt (artist, researcher and drag king) on 13th February as part of a two-day event about art careers at Sheffield Institute of Arts. The theme is “improfessionalism”, which feels fortuitously positioned alongside the “indisciplinarity” theme of the event at King’s College that I got to speak at last year.

While ‘professionalisation’ suggests the positive, necessary steps to becoming an artist, there are ‘improfessional’ practices that exist at an off-kilter relation to this imperative. Outside of the professional / unprofessional binary, what else do artists do, feel, or think as they build their portfolio, write their grants, or get on with these obvious tasks? And as both a direct or dissonant response to our art-making lives, what modalities of survival and thriving do we develop? How do we – or don’t we – maintain the balance, health, and motivation necessary to keep going as supposed art professionals?

I’m going to expand the talk I gave for the “indisciplinarity” event into something that delves even more into queer theories about time and life paths. There will probably be some Buddhist philosophy in there too, and I’m going to glance a little at the void by offering some thoughts on how to role-play as though there will be a future even though the world as we know it seems so fragile.

The whole two-day event schedule looks excellent, seems like the event will involve blending pragmatic questions with critical theory. Please check it out:

Cis Penance workshop in Dundee

This weekend, Jennifer Booth will be facilitating a workshop for the Cis Penance project, as part of NEoN Festival. We did a similar workshop this summer in Sheffield – the goal is to work collaboratively with LGBTQ+ folks to create a piece of visual artwork reflecting queer life paths and our relationship to time. This version of the workshop is going to have an extra element, incorporating tech toys such as a line-following robot or electroconductive ink, to further play with representations of systems, glitches, and discontinuity. Please come join us if that interests you and you’re in town.

Cis Penance

Interview in Our Favourite Places

Our Favourite Places is a site that reviews cultural stuff in Sheffield, and is an incredibly helpful resource that comprehensively covers all kinds of venues, events, and local businesses. This week they have published a lovely little profile of my work:

Speaking of interviews, but going in the other direction, where I’m the one asking questions: I’m keen to get more trans interviewees lined up for the next two weeks at Site Gallery. Give me a shout if you’re interested: