October 17th–October 19th, 2019
4 Hours Performance
327 Canal Street, New York City
Virtual & Other Pleasures is a spectatorial durational virtual reality (VR) performance in which a female-identifying performer dissects gendered virtual embodiment in an unscripted social VR space, via psychoanalytic approach.
The four hour performance occurs in a semi-enclosed space, the in-VR performer standing in the center. Two live-feed projectors cast behind her, allowing the audience to see the VR experience through her point-of-view. Two speakers point outward, enabling onlookers to hear what she hears. Wearing an avatar that accurately portrays her real-life body and clothing, she roams through various VRChat virtual worlds—challenging the assumption of her body as display object. She exists in contrast to eroticized avatars created and worn by the men of VRChat, bringing her real-life identity into the virtual world. Further vulnerability emerges from her stance in reality: performing VR for a group of strangers, blindfolded by her headset.
VR chat rooms combine cinematic styling with real-time social experience. The performer confronts the cinematic lens, and its historic subjugation of the female form, by approaching groups of men—specifically male users wearing female avatars—and staging impromptu interviews. She asks them questions regarding their gendered avatars, turning the focus away from the sexualized female caricatures and onto the men who wear them.
Michelle Cortese is a Canadian virtual reality designer, artist and futurist residing in Brooklyn, New York. She splits her professional time between leading VR design on Oculus social products at Facebook and teaching 3D design and creative technology at Queens College CUNY and NYU Steinhardt. Most of her work, both art and design, investigates the transmutation of human communication across new technologies and formats. Michelle was previously a Design Technologist at Refinery29; an Experiential Art Director at The New York Times' Fake Love; and has exhibited work at CES, Tribeca Film Festival, SXSW, and
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