Mixed Reality Festival is an immersive VR event for de-colonial artists that untethers itself from the daily oppression of our lives. This project, by Ratskin Records , will feature current and upcoming artists that push the boundaries of music, experimentation, healing, and self-expression in 2020. Through years of arts-based organizing, we have found that our communities are in crisis around physical, emotional, and financial access to physical art spaces and COVID-19 has only exacerbated this crisis. As queer and trans disabled artists of color, we are often overlooked as a community that has, in many ways, defined the cultural output of the Bay Area. We are in the position of archiving our struggles and creating social relevance through our own narratives. Our shared value of collective liberation has given us the integrity, passion, and inside knowledge needed to develop a platform that responds to the needs of our communities. 

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Our goal is to pay and provide material resources for artists whose work lies on the margins of mainstream consumption. Our creative communities are made up of many marginalized identities who are attempting to navigate a myriad of obstacles centered around access. Some of those obstacles include: spread of COVID-19 for immunocompromised folks, inaccessible venue entrances for wheelchair users, gender-based harassment for Trans and non-binary folks, and other forms of identity-based oppression that not only affect participants lives but their ability to enjoy music events. Ratskin is curation centered in this practice and provides resources for artists to create self-determined spaces. Our work is multifaceted as we utilize multiple avenues to address issues and focalize accountability around racism, transphobia, classism, and other systems that affect access. Mixed Reality Festival addresses the problem of inaccessible venues by offering an interactive, digital alternative to gathering in physical spaces. The need for access solutions is even more pressing as we collectively navigate a global pandemic. Our goal is to increase accessibility to art and music through creating a digital realm that helps our community stay connected despite the confines of shelter-in-place. By allowing participants to engage on their own terms, Mixed Reality lowers the barriers to arts participation by creating a curated, immersive space where both the audience and the artist are able to control their visual participation from their chosen location. 

A Mixed Reality Festival offers a platform for artists to engage in aesthetically rigorous self-expression and creative audience engagement. We will be presenting 15 different artists across multiple days in a virtual reality space that will include a workshop series, a resource library, and a decompression area. Our space will allow participants to choose their level of engagement by giving them control over multiple parameters, such as avatar presentation and environment. Avatar presentation, for example, helps trans/nonbinary participants curb gender dysphoria. The freedom of self expression offered by this festival is a solution that artists have been needing for more physical accessibility, self-determined safety, performance development, and contained audience engagement. 

The development of our festival is guided by disability justice principles and practices. In addition to consulting fees, we are also developing mutual aid efforts into our program budget which include: 25% of our ticket sales going to our partnering organizations with the rest of those funds going directly to performing artists. Your support would further allow us to compensate collaborators for their expertise and labor. 

We are currently in the prototyping, research, and development stage of the project. We are artists in residence at Zoo Labs, an artist entrepreneurship accelerator program, which provides infrastructural support and mentorship towards the development of our festival. We are collaborating with technical consultants and social justice advocates to make our VR space as accessible and safe as possible.  Our current timeline is to release our initial prototype in November of 2020, with the release of Mixed Reality Festival premiering October 2021. 

A Mixed Reality Festival's Venue Space, Merchendise Store, Decompression Space

A Mixed Reality Festival's Venue Space, Merchendise Store, Decompression Space

About Ratskin:  

Ratskin Records is a collective record label and archival imprint championing de colonial experimental music based in the Bay Area. We focus on LGBTQ+, Black, Native, POC, and disabled artists who create work that is sonically and politically pushing boundaries toward liberation. We work together to create an alternative to an industry that has historically exploited and devalued artist labor and work towards solutions for better artistic sustainability, as these mediums of expression are wholly important to the cultural empowerment of all marginalized people. We see the work of de colonial artists as world-building activism that centers empathy and basic human needs. The crux of our work is centered in engaging the healing power of sound for communities in struggle.  

About Us:  

Sharmi, Tieraney, and Michael have been friends and co-conspirators for over a decade and met playing house shows together.  We have collaborated as curators, organizers, and educators. Ratskin Records has existed in many forms and we’ve grown both as people and a community. Our selected biographies are below.  

Tierany Carter/Wizard Apprentice (pronouns: she and/or they) is a music producer, live performer, and video artist. As a highly sensitive introvert, her multimedia projects are strategies for managing an overwhelming world. Her music is a combination of lyrical precision, minimalistic composition, and technically-amateurish charm. She creates media that takes advantage of user-friendly technology, skipping time consuming learning curves to focus on inventing highly relatable language for subtle personal experiences. She’s not a gear-head, rather, a digital folk artist who vividly and simplistically expresses her inner world using resourcefulness and honesty. Her video work incorporates green screen graphics, digital puppetry, and compositing to produce imagery that’s cerebral, campy, and hypnotic. She combines song and video to create immersive performances that explore intimate emotional themes.  

Sharmi Basu (they/them/she/her) is an Oakland born and based South Asian woman of color creating experimental music as a means of decolonizing musical language. They attempt to catalyze a political, yet ethereal aesthetic by combining their anti-colonial and anti-imperialist politics with a commitment to spirituality within the arts. Beast Nest, Sharmi's primary performing project, utilizes multi-dimensional soundscapes to transmute trauma and suffering into moments of deep presence. They are an MFA graduate from the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College in Electronic Music and Recording Media and have worked with Fred Frith, Roscoe Mitchell, John Bischoff, Pauline Oliveros, Chris Brown, Maggi Payne, and more. Their workshops on “Decolonizing Sound” have been featured at the International Society for Improvised Music, the Empowering Women of Color Conference, and have reached international audiences. They perform almost 100 times a year and has toured through the US and Canada as well as internationally in Europe. She specializes in new media controllers, improvisation in electronic music, and intersectionality within music and social justice. They also founded and hosted an all people-of-color improvisation and performance group called the MARA Performance Collective in Oakland, CA and was a founder of the Universe is Lit: A Bay Area Black and Brown Punk Fest. They are on the board of directors for Safer DIY Spaces and Soundwave SF. She is also a certified mediator and much of her multimedia work centers on familial healing, transformative justice, accountability, and the investigation of interpersonal harm.  

Michael Daddona (he/him) is a curator, producer, visual and sound artist, as well as a founding member of Ratskin Records collective. He is a Public Programs Manager at Pro Arts Gallery & Commons, as well as a teaching artist working with 3rd-6th grade students on artistic concepts, frameworks, and skill development. Michael performs in False/None, Malocculsion, Cyborg Eye, and Coral Remains, and is a member of the art group: ANTI ART COLLECTIVE.