Neurospeculative AfroFeminism is a virtual reality programme made for black women. It premieres at the Sundance Festival in the United States as part of the New Frontiers section. Why only for black women? Speaking to the Huffington Post, its creator, multidisciplinary artist Ashley Baccus-Clark explains that it’s about creating a safe space.
Baccus-Clark is a member of Hyphen-Labs, a team of women who use art and technology to create work that protects women of colour. The journey to the creation of this VR world began when Baccus-Clark realised that there is no sunscreen that caters to the skin tone of women of colour. Regular store-bought brands leave a layer of purple sheen, so she decided to conceptualise her own brand of sunscreen. This speculative project turned out to be the first in a line of speculative beauty products and accessories designed for women of colour. All of which form the physical component to the virtual reality narrative that is Neurospeculative AfroFeminism.
The Hyphen-Labs team includes Carmen Aguilar y Wedge, a Mexican-American engineer with Cuban roots; Ece Tankal, an architect, and multidisciplinary designer from Turkey; and Nitzan Bartov, an architect, game designer and artist from Israel. They created a pair of earrings that function as recording devices, a prototype for a visor with a dichroic reflective surface that allows its wearers to see but not be seen, headgear made to reflect threatening gazes back at the watcher, and a scarf equipped with patterns specifically designed to overwhelm facial recognition software.
Finally, the Octavia, the virtual reality component, transports the users to a salon. It allows every user to see themselves as a woman of colour before they receive high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS), a non-invasive brain stimulation technique used to alleviate anxiety and depression.
“We want to subvert victimisation,” Aguilar y Wedge told the Huffington Post. “The only limit is our imagination.”