“Sci-Fi Fan as Performance Artist” lecture, and more TK Art <3er, at ASU

For those of you who have been wondering if Corporal Outis would ever get around to looking at some more art as part of TK Art <3er (last seen way back last summer), wonder no more! I finally got back to indulging my eyes last week.

And, for those of you who have been wondering if Corporal Outis would stop staring at things, get behind a podium, and give an academic lecture (probably not a huge number of you), wonder no more either!

I just spent two days at the Stage the Future: The Second International Conference on Science Fiction Theater, at Arizona State University in Tempe (also here on Facebook). The conference was held in association with ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and the Center for Science and the Imagination, which works to combine science and the arts.

I gave a presentation called “The Sci-Fi Fan as Performance Artist: Building Objects and Communities,” as part of the Pop! Goes the Science Imaginary panel, along with fellow panelists Jeff Sachs and Robert Kroll, both of whom gave interesting talks about Doctor Who.

I described the 501st Legion, the Star Wars costuming group, and presented my theory that 501st participants, most of whom work outside of the arts in their “straight” lives, should nonetheless be considered as artists. I argued that their physical builds, which involve high degrees of skill, creativity, and vision; and their events, which I see as performance art; are artworks–which is probably not a particularly controversial claim. My more unusual argument, perhaps, is that the 501st (and other cosplayers) members’ participation in their online forums is also a form of creative production and equivalent to performance art. These threads include both build and discussion threads, and are a big part of the way the 501st communicates and creates community. While I would guess that most 501st members wouldn’t think of this aspect of the community as art, I see this online visual and verbal dialog as being equivalent to numerous discussion-based artworks by conceptual artists from Joseph Beuys to Ian Wilson to Rirkrit Tiravanija, which use dialog as a pure form of communication and mindfulness among individuals.  In essence I invite others to consider these forums as art and see how that changes their perception of them.

The talk and its ideas were received well, and the audience members were interested to hear of the 501st’s level of costume research and quality, as well as its involvement in charities. I, incidentally, found out that it is much harder to breathe while giving a lecture in armor than it is to have a normal conversation!

I asked the audience, which took lots of pictures, to send them to me, so hopefully soon I can post some of them here.

The rest of the conference had several interesting presentations on the confluence of theater/performance and science fiction.

The next day, I finally followed up on TK Art <3er, in which I walk around and look at art in galleries, museums, and public spaces. I started off by going to the Meteorite Gallery, which was in the same building as the conference. This building has several very well-designed visual displays to present science information, including the Meteorite Gallery. The exhibition was very informative and had quite a few beautiful meteorite pieces.


Photo by Carol Stewart


Then I went off into the rest of the ASU campus in search of some student galleries. First I went to the Northlight Gallery, but unfortunately it was closed due to spring break. Then I went to the ASU Art building just to look around. The building was open, and I saw several examples of student work on the walls. I liked a display of “artistic manhole covers.” The Art building’s Harry Wood gallery was closed, but I was able to look in through the window, it looked like a good space.


I moved on to look for the Step Gallery, which I couldn’t find, but found Gallery 100, which is in the same building complex. In any case, both of them were closed for spring break as well. Here’s a Stormtrooper Selfie in front of the Gallery 100!


As I walked around, I saw several examples of public sculpture on the campus. Here’s another Stormtrooper Selfie in front of one of them.


Finally I arrived at the ASU Art Museum, a major contemporary art museum on campus, which thankfully was not closed! It has some pretty cool architecture that winds up and down in space. The students in the reception area were very welcoming and explained how to best navigate the museum. There were five main galleries with several shows. I liked a sculpture of some California-style houses and a swimming pool the most; the houses were sort of floating on the swimming pools, which were real water.

asu1 asu2 asu4 asu5 mirror

In the last one, you can see me reflected in a mirrored painting.  The guards and some other visitors, who were all very helpful, took the rest of these pictures for me.

The ASU campus actually has a large number of student and professional galleries, so it’s too bad that my timing was off (doing this on a Saturday during spring break), but the work I did see was enjoyable.

Overall, I was very happy with both the talk and the TK Art <3er performance. I’ll hopefully be doing some more TK Art <3er visits around New York once the weather gets warmer.

Upcoming: Stage the Future 2, at ASU

I’ll be attending Stage the Future 2, the annual conference on Science Fiction Theater, at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination this week (March 6 and 7).

I’ll be giving a talk called The Sci-Fi Fan as Performance Artist: Building Objects and Communities, about my work as Corporal Outis.

Then I’ll continue my TK Art <3er performance at some of the local art venues in Phoenix and Tempe.

Recap of “Doctor Outis Is In!” at the Performance Arcade

I provided free talk therapy sessions to people at the Performance Arcade, in Wellington, New Zealand, from February 18-22, in a project called Doctor Outis Is In!, in honor of the esteemed psychiatric work of Lucy van Pelt.

Photo Credit Gussie Larkin

Photo credit: Gussie Larkin

These performances lasted up to 13 hours a day, and brought in somewhere between one and two hundred patients over the five days of the show. I did individual, small group, and large group sessions. Each session lasted 15 minutes.



Photo credit: Peter Wickham

My office was suitably furnished with a chair for the participants and a stool for me (since I can’t sit down in my armor), along with a lamp and an appropriately black and white rug. Portraits of Freud, Lucy (seen here), and Emperor Palpatine hung on the wall to help us focus on the important aspects of the moment. Sessions were private, but there was a peephole in the door so the people outside in line could see us without hearing us.


The therapy sessions ranged in tone from humorous to serious, depending on what the participant was looking for. As I stressed to my patients, Corporal Outis has no therapy experience or expertise whatsoever. Sometimes we talked about the project, and how my mask provided a neutral, blank, expressionless affect that made it easier for them to talk with me than a normal human. But mostly people came in for actual therapy, and often had specific personal issues they wanted to seriously discuss.

Photo credit: Peter Wickham

Staged session with model, not a real participant.  Photo credit: Peter Wickham

I talked with people about their relationships with their families, their hopes and fears, and their sources of pride. People wanted to discuss breakups with romantic partners, the desire to cheat on their significant others, difficulties at work, various phobias (including a fear of Stormtroopers), problems with roommates, anxiety about moving, feeling inhuman, the process of coming out to family members, and the guilt over not being able to save people from harm. I talked with multiple “real” therapists, and enabled at least one to come to a moment of clarity about her own practice. Multiple participants remarked that I was “better than their real therapist,” and most were volubly thankful for their experience.

Overall it was a great success, with numerous deep conversations that built a strong set of interpersonal relationships and experiences.

Photo credit: Peter Wickham

Photo credit: Peter Wickham