George Morl, Orange Orient Warrior, Orange Orient Gatekeeper, Avatar

Avatar Alliance: 22nd Century Autistic Queer Digitopia Dieties

Avatar Alliance: 22nd Century Autistic Queer Digitopia Dieties, 2020 


Digital Images & Photographic Prints

︎ Summary

The use of costume and avatars is central in Morl’s work, explaining that many autistics use characters and avatars as a means to communicate aspects about themselves and their interests without a language barrier, compared to allistics who may use profiles as a means to project societal status like cultural wealth, money, or to receive validation for body-images. Morl’s presences, whether on social media, in public, often are a parody, homage, or critique of these notions in society notably in queer culture such as the fetishisation of youth. In spite of this, Morl’s use of images often convey their language which is often personal and specific to each autistic person, through object relations and colour theories, like one’s own digital archive.

The resultant oscillating ethereal environments mean these avatars exist to demonstrate how as autistics we may utilise internet spaces often online like Runescape, Animal Crossing during the pandemic, or even the use of PokemonGo which was created by an autistic, using GeoLocation to engage with public spaces and others in contrast to the possible risks associated with GPS in Grindr which systemically and structurally oppresses disabled and trans users.

Additionally, these platforms also act as a means to express our gender identity, or communicate with others in safe spaces shaped in our image. And like the technologies which support these ventures, these virtual words, digital modes, Morl’s ATM figures, reimagine a landscape through revaluating networks in Essex such as data centres through ‘Orange Orient Gatekeepers’ who redistribute power and stocks to minorities, or revaluating queer activism through accessible protective protest gear worn by ‘Orange Orient Warriors’, appropriating law enforcement riot gear and applying a queer approach to them, often out of a queer history that centres HIV in disability.    

On a different note these avatars also act as a means to critique the way society idolises people, how the autistic community, or queer culture is gatekept by majority voices, or how allistics (non-autistics) often objectify autistic narratives, fetishizing the supposed ‘gifts’, perpetuating harmful stereotypes. Greta like other activists in some way has become the equivalent of Southend Museum’s ‘Wickford Venus’, a household roman idol, one which is both revered to such a huge platform, yet behind all these followers, one may only have to click on them to discover social media accounts characterised by plane holidays, or veiled attempts and virtue signalling actions to support autistics while still undeniably not taking the effort to consider their own prejudices. After all why is the mainstream queer community heavily white, able-bodied, queer man?

Might this be because the changes required to address these inequalities might be because someone may be required to consider their own prejudices, which is often at loggerhead with an identity which is shaped around tolerance, inclusivity and belonging? These only further compound the problem around why there is little if not any representation of queer autistics or those with learning disabilities as it requires those from within the queer community to learn languages and dismantle conditioned views about others without deflecting responcibility outisde. 

In relation to the dissemination of these voices and public perception, photos are mapped to match ratios that of used on smartphone screens and on the projection of mobile social media apps such as Instagram, with reels and videos on loop. As a possible place to exist on these online space, avatars which take on new queer activist dialogues explore the ways in which activism has now also extended onto online worlds, whilst also critiquing the way in which users may project their values online, which although unknown to them may still perpetuate the same oppression they seek to confront, which has become known as virtue signalling in colloquial 21st century digital landscapes.

It is these concerns around misinformed representation, which were evident in the conversation that Morl had with other autistics, queer autistics, and transgender people, and some of whom also attend autistic provision centres, or via online chatrooms, dating apps, social media; Morl who is autistic and genderfluid themselves conversed with other autistics and transgender individuals requesting their views on disability and queer activism. Transcribing these written conversations, Morl responded to with avatars and videos seeking to become a visual archive, a form of activism, a new queer conscience, one that hopes to centre all disabled and queer voices. This collective of autistic and trans voices has become what Morl sees as the Autistic Trans Matrix (ATM).

︎ Assosiated Awards

TOW Residency, 2020