Brandon is inspired by the story of Brandon Teena, a 21-year-old transgender man who was raped and murdered in 1993. Shu Lea Cheang’s visually layered online artwork, recently restored by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, uses pop-up windows, chat rooms, and flashy nineties computer graphics to help users explore and understand Teena’s tragic death. The website references other cultural touchstones in the ongoing struggle for transgender rights and visibility, including the iconic drag documentary Paris Is Burning and the gender philosophy of Michel Foucault. These allusions connect Teena’s story to the broader histories and politics it helped transform.
Tip for interacting: Created before standardized conventions of web navigation were developed, this work is an early example of an artist envisioning how the internet could be. Made using an outmoded platform and technology, Brandon was recently restored to its intended functionality by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Users who are accustomed to the consistent styles across webpages today, however, may find this work challenging to navigate. Even if the page appears to lack prompts or links, click around. With more than 4,500 files, including a hidden archive of research materials, there are a lot of "Easter eggs" to uncover.
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