Interactive portraits

Zoyander Street
Warning: these works use glitchy visual effects that are probably not safe for people with photosensitive epilepsy. Please be careful!
"All the time I'm having to make up stories. Because you are a friend, I can confess about it this way, but you know, if you'd interviewed me just like all the other interviews by people who are like, 'what is a transgender?' I would have had to lie."


This is a series of works that came out of a residency carried out in early 2018 in Tokyo, with the Ministry of Culture-supported Creator Ikusei project. I adopted research techniques from ethnography and history, such as open-ended interviews and participant observation, and developed a method of representing the results of this research in a playful and interactive form that draws heavily from familiar interaction design patterns such as the tamagotchi-style virtual pet and role-playing game multiple-choice dialogue systems.

The lo-fi presentation creates a high degree of anonymity, and allows transgender people to be represented without being subject to the cisgender gaze under which transgender bodies and voices are made into fraught rhetorical objects. The neotenous and nostalgic style reflects common ways that transgender people represent ourselves in online spaces today: perhaps we're attempting to reclaim our lost youth, or maybe we're using cuteness to convey a radical sincerity.

All of these pieces are made in Pico-8, a simulation of a 1980s computer that never actually existed. Pico-8 is a creative computing project which uses the practice of software emulation as a means for imagining alternate histories of technology, and gives creators exaggerated constraints within which to make their works - for example, the screen resolution is just 128 by 128 pixels! Pico-8's pastel colour palette evokes the "cybertwee" aesthetic movement that aims to make technology cute and feminine, hinting at a timeline parallel to our own in which the tech industry never became so male-dominated and utilitarian.


Futurecade, Festival of the Mind, Sheffield: 20th - 27th September, 2018 | With Sheffield University

Mozilla Festival, London: 26th - 18th October, 2018

Rainbow Arcade, Schwules Museum, Berlin: 14th December, 2018 - 13th May, 2019

Solo exhibition, ROAR, Rotherham: 13th January - 8th February, 2019

Now Play This, London: 6th-14th April

Docfest, Sheffield: 6th-11th June


Freelands Artist Programme Work in Progress show, Site Gallery, Sheffield: August 2019

Installation: Interactive Portrait Cushions

In late 2018, an innovative new installation was created with funding from Arts Council England, using textiles by Anne Smithies and custom-made handheld consoles based on the Adafruit PiGRRL Zero. This creates an intimate space and a tactile engagement with the material, encouraging a sense of proximity to the material. The extensive use of textiles also encourages participation by people who might feel turned-off by the signifiers of videogames culture, creating a sense of a traditional domestic material culture colliding with avant-garde digital aesthetics.