Title/Date: i still love you pluto (2021).
Author(s): Sophie Reid-Singer (clunkk).
Place of Publication: Queensland College of Arts Southbank – Grey St. Gallery (Brisbane).
Format: Dynamic (2) interactive projection artwork (online multiplayer videogame).
The centrepiece of i still love you pluto (2021) is a projection artwork showing a bulbous, horned caricature of Pluto relaxing on her pseudo-throne, suspended on the River Styx (the pathway to the underworld). On the roof of the blacked out Grey St. Gallery at Queensland College of Arts, spilling out from this digital mural, is a music visualiser that collides with the Teapot Constellation (which marks Pluto in the sky). The scene is hand-drawn in a naïve storybook style, conjuring innocence, then glitched and animated within Unity, conjuring gameplay.
In 2006, the United Nations adopted the Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities, calling for attitudes towards disabled people to shift from objects of “charity, medical treatment and social protection” to subjects “with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society” (United Nations 2022). In an unrelated coincidence, this was the same year that the International Astronomical Union (IAU) reclassified Pluto from a planet to a sub-class titled ‘dwarf planets.’ In a medical context, my disability is defined as a rare form of dwarfism. Some in the short-statured community have argued this is not a disability. As is also true of Pluto’s dramatic figuration in Greek mythology as Hades, the dwarf planet Pluto rests at the border between human and nonhuman—abled and disabled. On the opening night of i still love you pluto (2021) I played the role of Pluto’s agent—representative and protector at Pluto Watch HQ—implicating gallery visitors in an interactive, absurdist, redemption quest.
i still love you pluto is an online, multiplayer game hosted behind the gallery wall. Player 1 controls a star in the scene, using accelerometer data streamed from a mobile phone that is mounted to an imitation World War II Japanese, military helmet. To participate, Player 1 must break the rules established in the environment’s world fiction. Specifically, they must ignore the artworld’s implied mantra¾’do not touch’¾accepting the allure of the Cosmic Star Cannon (the helmet), and using it to manoeuvre their star and interact with Pluto.
TLDR: In this artwork, the cyborg is the participant wearing the helmet-controller which interfaces with the artwork.
Imagery of cyborgs in this videogame did not emancipate disabled peoples from the strict legal conditions imposed by the Australian Government.
In the game, Pluto values her personal space. She communicates her boundaries non-verbally through expressions of joy, sadness, and anger. If Player 1 is invasive and nudges Pluto from her safe space, then she wails a siren of alarm and the colour of the room shifts to a dramatic purple. In this event, I appear in mock-devastation and demand that Pluto is returned to her previous status. Due to the presence of lag, using the star to hoist Pluto back is an unfair challenge. If Player 1 cannot complete the task, I enter the scene as Player 2 and send in the Pluto Watch, a keyboard-controlled star, and record the ‘Pluto related incident’ on a virtual noticeboard. (27 were recorded during the opening performance).
At the core of my intentions with this artwork was emboldening disobedience and instilling doubt in authority—even at my own expense. This artwork acknowledges and has fun with several contradictions surrounding the construct of disability. Making ‘light’ of a situation is more than a personal diversion strategy; humour is useful for disarming inhibitions while presenting controversial subject matter. It is my hope that audiences leave my artworks with a renewed bodily awareness—or, at the very least, feeling a bit disorientated.