The internet has promised a place to exist beyond the binaries of society since its early inception. Through online platforms and virtual avatars, digital artists have probed questions of representation and perception through their work. The programs below consider the way digital technologies can enable us to express our identities beyond physical limitations or expectations.  

Section Glossary

Accessibility or access – Refers to the degrees of ease to which something can be had, used, or accessed. In many of these videos, accessibility refers to physical and virtual spaces as well as tools and knowledge. More information on accessibility and the MacKenzie Art Gallery’s Accessibility Statement can be found here.

Artist residency – The activity of an artist produced in a specific space for a duration of time. Often these are programs offered by groups or institutions designed to support the creation of artistic work in a new environment. 

Autotheoretical or AutotheoryAn approach to philosophy and theory that blends these discourses withuses autobiography and other more subjective methods personal ways of knowing.

Avatar – An image used to represent a video game player or digital platform user in those digital spaces. Often, games and digital platforms will allow you to change the appearance of your avatar, and use it to move around and interact with a digital world. 

Binary – A binary system offers only two options. Binary systems can be used by computers to transmit information through either 1’s or 0’s. A gender binary system usually includes only male or female genders, to the exclusion of others. 

Discourse – The large discussions being had by people across a specific field or on a specific topic. 

Identity – The way in which individuals perceive themselves. This can also be influenced through society assigning identities to groups based on perceived commonalities. 

IronicVerbal irony is when something stated is intended to have a different or opposite effect than expected. Situational irony is when something has an unexpected outcome. Dramatic irony is when an audience knows something that a character in a story does not. Artists often use irony as a tool of expression.

Modifiers or mods – Game modifiers or mods are add-ons to existing software and platforms that change aspects of their user experience. Mods are often created by fans of games to expand gameplay.  

Praxis – The process of applying theory in a practical way, such as through an art practice. 

Representation – The depiction of someone or something, usually through media or the arts. 

Transfeminism – A form of feminism that includes trans women in its’ discussions around women’s rights and equality. Trans feminism could also be considered part of intersectional feminism, a form of feminism that seeks to include other groups that often get left out of discussions on feminism. These groups can include people who are discriminated against because of their race, class, sexuality, age, or immigration status. Intersectional feminism considers how these different statuses can overlap, often creating even greater inequality. It also considers the historical context of these social statuses- for example, how colonialism affects Indigenous women’s rights in Canada. This term was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. 

Cat Haines: (g)Ender Gallery

Cat Haines’ (g)Ender Gallery was an installation and performance series on the Ender Gallery Minecraft server. Over the course of her residency, Haines constructed digital representations of her body block-by-block, creating an ironic and playful transfeminist intervention into yonic art canon. Through theoretical research and autotheoretical praxis, Haines explored the possibilities of queer and trans intimacies in digital spaces. Live-streamed May 8, 2021.

Content advisory: pixel representations and discussions of genitalia.

Cat Haines and Evie Ruddy in Conversation

In this program, artist-in-residence Cat Haines invites Evie Ruddy, Carlton Transgender Media Lab scholar and PhD candidate to her virtual studio. The two discuss transfeminist and bodily interventions into second wave feminist theory, how each conceives of audience in their work, ways of disrupting cisnormative visual logics, and the role of affect in relation to desire.  Live-streamed April 15, 2021.

Content advisory: pixel representations and discussions of genitalia.

Cat Haines: Ender Gallery Studio Visit

Minecraft artist-in-residence Cat Haines invites you into her studio as she builds an exhibition for the Ender Gallery program. Haines discusses her approach and intention to create a monumental digital representation of her surgically constructed vagina in Minecraft.  Live-streamed March 31, 2021.

Content advisory: pixel representations and discussions of genitalia.


TJ Cuthand: Bipolar Journey

Featured in the exhibition “DAiR v1: Video Games by Artists,” TJ Cuthand’s Bipolar Journey uses interactive game play to explore the artist’s personal experiences with Bipolar disorder. To win the game, you must successfully find your way through tasks such as medication management, psychiatric hospitalization, and community reintegration. Integrating a zine-inspired collage aesthetic with interactivity, Bipolar Journey seeks to explain the experience of madness.  Live-streamed March 4, 2021.

Content advisory: discussions of mental health and psychiatric hospitalization.



Kara Stone: UnEarthU

Kara Stone’s UnEarthU explores the commodification of health and wellness through a seven-day interactive experience. The audience is guided through by KARE, an artificial intelligence self-discovery program. UnEarthU is a measured reflection on personal, environmental, and technological resources and the systems developed to manage them. Live-streamed July 2, 2020.



Augmented Reality Makeup Tutorial

Famous new media artist Jeremy Bailey and John G. Hampton create new virtual identities for themselves in this beginner augmented reality tutorial. Follow along to learn how to use the Lens Studio software to create augmented reality filters with face tracking that can be used with social media and video calls. Live-streamed April 9, 2020.




Things to think about

  • Do you feel like you can be yourself more in the real world or in virtual spaces?
  • What ways might you express you identity differently in a virtual space? Would you look, sound, or act differently?
  • What connections exist between your physical body and your identity? What connections can be made between your digital avatars or virtual bodies and your identity?

Studio Activity

Cat Haines: Making a Better World with Minecraft

Minecraft Avatar isolated against a wall depicting the Transgender flag colours.