How Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley Archives the Sad Trans Expertise

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Constructing an archive is a belief exercise. Here is what Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley—a Sad British trans artist and sport developer—teaches us. The Berlin- and London-based fully artist says she targets to assemble the narratives of Sad trans folks—“those living, those that enjoy handed, and folks which enjoy been forgotten.” Her works, that are living on the salvage, are customarily customarily known as “video games,” even supposing maybe “digital experiences” is a extra indispensable identifier. Even though Brathwaite-Shirley employs gaming know-how and infrastructure, she moreover actively refuses the gamification of Sad trans identification. Embedding prompts and questions that push contributors to appear the scary and voyeuristic put together she calls “trans tourism,” the artist positions her archive as a central assembly set up, a homecoming space for Sad trans folks, the set up their tales may well maybe maybe also also be saved and neatly-known.

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In every digital ride, Brathwaite-Shirley, who graduated from the Slade College of Lovely Art in London in 2019, establishes a social contract. In dialog boxes, she particulars tips of engagement between the artist, as sport developer and host, and the person, as guest and participant. As I write this, I Can’t Be awake a Time I Didn’t Want You (2020) is featured on her online page’s homepage. Its floating banner reads THEY SAY YOUR LIFE MATTERS, and guests receive a suggested: CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE CITY OF DREAMS. Amid an appealing, pixelated cityscape paying homage to the 1990s net net hosting services Geocities and Angelfire comes a disclaimer (THIS ARCHIVE CENTERS BLACK TRANS PEOPLE. THOSE THAT ARE NOT BLACK AND TRANS MAY FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE) and a trigger warning (TW: THERE ARE THEMES OF LOSS WITHIN THE ARCHIVE).

Fabric gently draped over a table has a busy background print and text in bold letters: I'M TIRED OF PLAYING HIDE AND SEEK SO I'M NOT HIDING ANYMORE

Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley: I Am Bored with Taking half in Disguise and See, 2020, from the exhibition “Resurrection Lands,” 2021, at Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea.
Courtesy the artist

Respecting the terms of Brathwaite-Shirley’s scheme, I will repeat you easiest so critical about my ride. Earlier than coming into City of Dreams, guests locate a dialog box that asks for his or her title, and it’s impossible to bypass this inquiry. Company to Brathwaite-Shirley’s digital territory may well maybe maybe also rightly wonder, who’s storing this records? How will it be ancient? The easy suggested “What is your title?” may well maybe maybe also also be sophisticated, triggering, and empowering for Sad and trans folks. This day, many Sad folks accrued lift the closing names of those that when deemed us their property. Some Sad and strange folks enjoy emancipated ourselves with names of our possess picking. These self-obvious names designate our chosen families, which home us and withhold us total. Typing our title on-line returns us to our physique off-display cover.

As I cross thru Brathwaite-Shirley’s on-line city, I center of attention on the banner she confirmed me earlier on the digital toll road: REMEMBER YOUR IDENTITY IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL YOU WILL EXPERIENCE. This reminder rings correct both on and away from the prosthetics of our machines. Even though Brathwaite-Shirley fastidiously guides me thru this scheme, offering comforting prompts and a transparent direction, I accrued salvage myself deeply alone in the pixelated fog. Company are free to toddle into different areas, and I stumbled on myself in places of odd nightlife or treasure that left me eager for congregation. Interior these sacred spaces, Brathwaite-Shirley prompts us to affirm confessional mantras aloud, granting forgiveness to others and pledging self-care to our shows. At some level of, Brathwaite-Shirley deftly and generously negotiates the advanced dialectics of voyeurism and ogle, spectacle and participation. As I step into the digital streets of her city, I payment Brathwaite-Shirley’s phrases: REMEMBER TO TAKE MOMENTS / TO ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT YOUR EXISTENCE MEANS.

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