I visited the world’s first LGBT virtual museum

Antonia Forster in VR and Patricia Cronin's Marriage Memorial at the LGBQ + VR Museum

Antonia Forster, creator of the LGGBQ+ VR Museum in a VR headset and sculpture by Patricia Cronin Marriage memorial in . Image source: Fraser and PR

I’m standing in an unmarked border area with a rainbow icon floating in front of me. The way below me is the Milky Way, a stunning stellar spectacle that makes our home galaxy an episodic detail in an ocean of stars. For once, this is not the result of a heroic dose of acid at A pride After the party, but the first world lobby Virtual Reality LGBTQ museum.

Created by Antonia Forster – Activist, Speaker, Self-Scientific Programmer and Once Advertiser One of the most influential gay people in Bristol – The LGBTQ + VR متحف Museum Presents a cultural exhibition based on contributions via Like me The community, from southwest England to Denmark and Ghana. Each exhibit consists of a 3D-printed scan of an object and an accompanying audio message that tells the story of its significance. Here a batch of nail polish turns into an act of defiance, a karaoke microphone and an embodiment of the dealer community and a carefully crafted misleading version of James Baldwin Giovanni’s room Try to be discovered and seen.

The Forster Museum began its life, like many moments of cultural transformation, when you couldn’t find one anywhere else. “I kept thinking: ‘Surely someone did this?'” ‘She told me from a cafe in Brislington, Bristol. But they didn’t. As it turns out, there was no museum dedicated to LGBTQ+ in the UK at the time (For example Britain It has since opened its doors as a physical museum, where The Forrester Project will appear in July). So I made one.

In addition to bringing the community together, the project was also intensely personal. After asking him to speak in TEDxTalk event in 2017Forrester realized that the conversation would constitute going out to her family as bisexual and polygamous. Most of the conversations did not go well; Some, she says, have turned into extortion, bribery and threats. “I was given this choice very clearly: ‘We will continue to support you, but only if you stay in the closet. “And I didn’t want to do that,” she says. “So my strategy was to become a software engineer.”

The move provided Forrester with the knowledge and resources to access and create virtual worlds — and now, the freedom to give back to her community. Thomas Terkelsen He was one of a wave of contributors who responded to a plea on social media, and it quickly became apparent that his background in developing virtual reality provided opportunities for more in-depth collaboration on the project.

“I knew it was a huge task for one person — in hindsight it was a huge project for two people trying to do this while also working on full-time jobs,” he says. “I remember going on school trips to museums where I saw paintings of men and women in love. I’ve never seen any artwork that tells the stories of men who love men. I’m sure it would have helped me find myself if that kind of representation existed. Now it is. “.

Interior Design of the LGGBQ + VR Museum

Interior design of the LGGBQ + VR Museum. Image source: PR

Upon entering the museum, the experience of entering an alternate reality transcends the technical beauty of its original surfaces and colorful exhibits. It’s my first time using the Meta Quest 2 headset, and its immersive quality is sure enough to convince me I’m about to fall in the garden outside on more than one occasion. But what’s really impressive is the feeling of occupying a queer space that isn’t a temporary loan, when LGBTQ+ events are often stuffed into straight mile dive bars, standard art venues, or temporary DIY affairs. It’s a dedicated space, and one that you realize the UK is sorely lacking after the headset came out.

Some people have waited longer than others for these moments. Artist based in New York Patricia Cronin She contributed to a virtual display of the marble statue she made in 2002; titled Marriage memorial, depicts Cronin and her partner Deborah locked in an embrace to revive their love after death, at a time when they were unable to marry. It remains the first and only in the world marriage equality Set up. “The challenge in this work was to strike a balance between a high level of official execution and pointed political protest,” she can be heard explaining at the museum. “What I couldn’t have in life, I would have forever in death.”

Speaking to Cronin after 20 years, now happily married to Deborah, she still sees a frustrating lack of visibility for lesbians and the broader LGBTQ+ community. As always, the problems are intersecting: for a Bristol-based project launched in the same year Colston statue covers clearedThe question of who owns public spaces and how they decide what is displayed in them is more relevant than ever.

Puppet exhibition at the LGBQ + VR Museum

Exhibit at the LGGBQ + VR Museum. Image source: PR

I rarely see my reflections in the patriarchal culture among white males. “When I see it, lesbians are usually just a joke in a movie trailer or in porn designed by and for straight guys,” Cronin says. “So, in addition to not seeing women honored at public monuments and same-sex marriage being illegal in the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first century, I decided to imagine a world where misogyny and homophobia were not.”

Cronin says she still gives her friends the same advice she did in 2002: “If you want permanent public art, buy the land.” But she is not holding her breath. I refuse to wait for the outside world, local and federal municipalities, nor culture from the art world to Hollywood to verify my legitimacy. I’ll do it myself, thank you. I have a radical imagination to reject my absence and insist on my existence with dignity.”

This may be where virtual reality intervenes to acquire new spaces beyond this stifling, heterogeneous dimension. As the fight for IRL gay rights continues, more and more projects (including Minecraft’s Leading Uncensored Library) that provides an opportunity to imagine what the future might look like elsewhere. Then again, like metaverse Expands, “elsewhere” may become an increasingly vague concept.

The reaction so far has been everything you’d expect from the internet. “The criticisms I get when I engage in gay activity are either ‘We don’t need this because gay people are treated equally’ or ‘They die of AIDS,'” Forster says. The tech industry itself isn’t completely inclusive either.” It’s its own echo chamber because it’s a skewed demographic. I don’t know the stats about gay people, but there are Fewer women in technologyfor example, and therefore it can be more difficult for women just because there are fewer of them.”

However, the museum is turning out to be something of an international success. This month, the project won an award New Voices Award in Tribeca A festival in New York, where the experience is enhanced by a biometrics component – the user wears a device with electrodes that can measure heart rate and skin conductance, translating into emotional excitement and engagement with content. In October, Forster and her team will work with the Danish Consulate in New York to present a copy of the museum in New York, scheduled for display on the High Line.

For Forrester, a fan of Dungeons & Dragons And LARPing, other worlds aren’t just there to be discovered – they can be built. And they don’t need to work by the same rules. “I think we are deeply locked into ideas about what the world might be like, which are very narrow and limited, based on the limited view of our society now, in this age, in the Western world,” she says. “The idea of ​​virtual reality for me was actual sorcery — and it still is. I can create anything I can imagine without anything. It is pure magic, pure evocation.”

The LGBTQ+ VR Museum is currently showing at Tribeca Festival 2022 through July 19.

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