Virtual Drag queers virtual reality for Midsumma FestivalMedia release
Southbank has hit peak fabulousness with drag kings and queens virtually taking over the Studio at Testing Grounds from 1 – 7 February as part of the 2016 Midsumma Festival.
Virtual Drag is an immersive exhibition of 3D scans of drag queens and kings by artists Alison Bennett, Megan Beckwith, and Mark Payne which is displayed on virtual reality headsets and projections.
Drag artists Philmah Bocks, Art Simone, Jackie Hammer, and the Transylvanian Gypsy Kings all feature in the exhibition, having had every angle captured by 143 individual cameras in the photo booth at Deakin University’s Motion.Lab.
The exhibition also includes a special free after-dark event on Friday 5 February where the works will appear as huge projections on a nearby building.
Artist and Motion.Lab researcher Alison Bennett explained the idea behind Virtual Drag.
“We think drag is important! It may be the most visible of queer identity performance but it is by no means vapid,” Alison said.
“So much of the early work in virtual reality has been driven by naked girls presented for a male gaze.
“As queer new media artists, we are inspired by artists that ‘queer’ digital spaces such as Jacolby Satterwhite, a New York-based vogue dance artist who presents his performance work in virtual digital spaces, and London based Zach Blas’ Queer Technologies project.
“Drag Queens are the warriors of gay pride. The gay rights movement has been characterised by a push back against gender roles and queering the performance of gender. It was transwomen, drag queens and butch presenting women that instigated the Stonewall riots. They were being arrested for cross dressing, not simply for being homosexual.
“The intersections between virtuality and drag stem from ways of speaking about virtual reality as simulation and the drag definition of ‘realness’.”
Alison explained the many steps that went into creating the works.
“Once we had the images, Mark (Payne; an award-winning designer and artist working with photogrammetry) and I used photogrammetry software to generate the 3D mesh and textures,” said Alison.
“Megan (Beckwith; a choreographer, 3D animation specialist, and researcher at Deakin University’s Motion.Lab) then added animation and inserted the animated 3D scans into 3D gaming software platform Unity.
“The finished product, a hyper-real cyberspace encounter, is exhibited via Oculus Rift headset.”
Drag artist Philmah Bocks is excited to be a part of the project.
“No strings attached darlings!” Philmah said.
“This is as close to a drag persona you can get without suffering a backlash of insults … followed by the usual condiments of booze, cigarettes, perfume and glitter. Get immersed in the magic without the mess!”
Virtual Drag: a Midsumma Festival Premier Event
Location: Studio atTesting Grounds, 1 - 23 City Road, Southbank
Dates: 1 - 7 February
Time: 10am - 6pm