Brandon, the Guggenheim Museum’s first-ever online commission, was a multifaceted year-long narrative work that included a website, live and online performances, and installations that explored the possibilities and limits of cyberspace as a site for gender expression and, conversely, gender-based violence. The work revolved around the tragic story of Brandon Teena, a young, transgender man who was raped and murdered in Nebraska.
Shu Lea Cheang's Brandon is an extrememly ambitious and far-reaching project about living in one's skin (virtually, physically, or psychically).
Over the course of one year, Brandon will be constantly "processing": it has been designed with holes and loops, and with events and venues that will allow participants from all parts of the world and netspace to shape and author the project.
Brandon's central themes, the complex ecologies of gender, sexuality, are threads taken from the life of Brandon Teena/Teena Brandon, a (real) woman who lived and loved as a man in Falls City, Nebraska, USA. Brandon was raped and murdered in 1993 by two local men who discovered that "he" was a "she."
Brandon (the project) will explore a range of spaces, from online multiple user spaces (like chatrooms or avatars) to offline spaces like the Theatre Anatromicum, a Dutch new media performance venue once used for experimental surgeries on prisoners.
Brandon also has a certain symbolic importance: as the first Web site to be commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum, its production might signal a new point in the trajectory of internet art--internet art has reached a stage when museums and established art spaces and sponsors are interested in enough to invest time and resources. This first installation of Brandon shows morphing gender signifiers, images of artifical and transformed physicality, and suggests a sense of impending violence and trouble.