I am twenty-one years old, nonbinary, and in my third year studying neuroscience and philosophy at Brown University. I create virtual things and non-virtual things, and most of them are garments designed to people's needs and measurements. My work navigates gender in nuanced ways and is often femme. It comes from my South Asian ancestors and my queer ancestors. It's made of feelings of being alien in an otherworldly and celestial way. It comes from the idea that everyday is an occasion, an opportunity to be unapologetically oneself; that the virtual offers an exploration into our impossible selves; that we are all larger than life. I'm just designing garments that help me and others see and be themselves.
Bodies are weird. Part of being nonbinary, for me, is constantly attending to how I want to present my body, especially as that presentation relates to gender. In lockdown, I’ve had a lot more alone-time, which has been time to get to know myself and figure out how I want my body to read (rather than how I imagine others might want my body to read). Some of the narratives that we can construct from these images have to do with me discovering drag as a new medium of gender expression. Some narratives have to do with discovering that I can find ways to read as nonbinary both in and out of drag. I can be anything I want and in any way. Some days I feel like presenting femme, some days butch, some days somewhere in-between, some days somewhere outside, etc. The images also reveal that over lockdown I’ve found more nuanced ways to situate myself in gender, and that despite being nuanced, these ways can still read as gendered in those nuanced ways. I’m building skill sets in things like makeup, sketching, and fashion design, but also in things like navigating gender, navigating pop culture, and recalling personal histories. I’m going to keep prancing around as an approximation to the self-presentation I imagine, and maybe one day I will prance around actually in those ways I imagine.
I’ve put aside a project that’s a digital world with queer ghost monsters. It involves 3D character creation, animation, and sculpting virtual settings. The concepts are really interesting, and it’d be fulfilling. For the amount of time and energy it will take, I’m just not interested enough in completing it right now. The project requires skills that I haven’t yet built the basics for. I could build those skills while working on the project, and get ‘over the hump’, but I’d rather take it slowly so that I get to work on other fulfilling projects. I also just don’t have the emotional energy right now to devote several months with an intense, determined work ethic to finish a project that will ultimately only serve a background role to the garments I design for the queer ghost/monsters (and to the choreography I perform as the monsters).
I’ve set the project aside while I work on other projects and slowly build the skill set. I’ll eventually create this fun virtual realm, and I’ll do it on a timeline that makes sense. The project used to make me feel urgency and fear. I’m still disappointed that it will be a while until I get to work on it in a way that I’d call “play.” It’s also hard to navigate new technologies. Nonetheless, the urgency and fear are gone, so I have the time to work on it according to my immediate interest and emotional ability. It feels more peaceful and I’m content with it.
About the Guild
The RISD Museum Guild is a group of undergraduate students from local colleges and universities who work toward representation, inclusion, and advocacy for student voices in the museum space. We typically plan and facilitate public programs that allow artists from local colleges to share their processes. During the pandemic, the RISD Museum Guild has had to adjust our modes of working collaboratively. Like you, we squished our faces into a shifting mosaic of Zoom rectangles, with members calling in from Providence, New Orleans, New Delhi, London, and more. Unravel: An Anti-Exhibition has grown out of this shared virtual space.