AR installation challenges ideas about fashion and gender at Sheffield Doc/Fest

Issue date: 30 May 2019


Through the Wardrobe

PhD researcher Rob Eagle, based at the Digital Cultures Research Centre (DCRC) at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), has developed an augmented reality (AR) wardrobe to challenge our ideas about fashion and identity and introduce audience-members to the lived experiences of Bristolian genderqueer and non-binary people.

The project, entitled Through the Wardrobe, will premiere at Sheffield Doc/Fest 6-11 June 2019. It invites viewers to explore a wardrobe of clothes and play with the idea of gender expression using clothing selected by four genderqueer participants and an AR headset. It forms part of the festival's Alternate Realities Exhibition where it is nominated for the Best Digital Experience Award.

Rob Eagle said: "I wanted users to have a physical experience as well as a virtual one. The work relies on the power of touching physical objects whilst harnessing the creative freedoms of the augmented reality headset. The work challenges gender norms and asks questions about why people make particular decisions about the way they dress."

Rob's practice-based research, which is funded through the 3D3 Centre for Doctoral Training, builds on new narratives in gender studies exploring how we express our gender identity.

The installation was assembled with help from four genderqueer participants inspired by their own stories and fashion choices. Many of the items came from charity shops and vintage stores in and around Bristol. For trans, gender-nonconforming and non-binary people, charity shops are one of the few non-gendered places to buy clothes on the high street.

Mandy Rose, Director of the DCRC said: "Rob's project demonstrates the potential of immersive media to engage the user in a novel experience that invites them to reflect on the lives of others. Rob is a successful documentary filmmaker, who is thoughtfully translating his storytelling skills into this new experiential creative territory. It's terrific that he's been invited to exhibit the work in competition at Sheffield DocFest."

After Sheffield Doc/Fest, Through the Wardrobe will be on tour later this year, with dates to be confirmed.

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