Cosplay vs. | AND/OR as Digital Art

Jenni Källberg’s Samus Aran (Metroid) cosplay and LaTurbo Avedon’s Untextured self-portrait.

Award-winning cosplay artist Jenni Källberg ( ) became very well known online in 2008 when she was in her mid-twenties. Identifying as Swedish/Japanese and hailing from Sweden, Källberg understands herself simultaneously to be both an artist and a cosplayer. She positions these fields of activity (Cosplay and Art) as separate categories.

In this comparison of her work, I will addresses her as an artist and intentionally include her cosplay as part of her creative practice, an aspect of cultural work that she has been very well recognized for internationally.

As Willa Köerner writes: “La Turbo Avedon is an avatar/“digitally-based person” who lives and works on the Internet.” Köerner claims that La Turbo Avedon has no IRL body, making Avedon’s art practice “uniquely” and fundamentally digital ( ). Of course we know this claim to be both simultaneously true and false. Avedon is herself an artwork as well as an artist. She is, of course, a character that is the creative work of (an) art(ist[s]). La Turbo Avedon is an artist as artwork whois internationally recognized as such. She is widely known as a persona and as an artist exhibiting her art works across the world online and in IRL/AFK art contexts and spaces (since ~2012). Additionally, Avedon is a curator and founder of an online museum/gallery, the Panther Modern. Via this “file-based exhibition space” she exhibits other artists working in New Media and Experimental 3D.

Jenni Källberg’s Samus vs. LaTurbo Avedon

Avedon’s creator(s) have said of themselves/their project: “both my identity and artworks are important to my process of making.” They explain further that the Avedon avatar emerges from “gaming, social media and artwork” and that her “digital body is as much performative as it is diaristic, seeing how I develop as time and technology goes on.” In visual terms this performativity has manifested as Avedon is rendered in various ways with various engines.

Returning to game cultures and explicit cosplay projects, Källberg’s work involves developing variant cosplays of Samus Aran from Nintendo’s now classic Metroid games. From the first game’s winning state, players learned that Metroid’s hero, Samus, is a woman. This reveal of heroic femininity is famously a fact that surprised players in terms of their identifications with this protagonist whom they had played as during the run of the game. As such Samus of Metroid has become a hero as a concept and character even outside of the game in larger Game Cultures by providing female identification for gamers in multiple versions across various platforms since 1986.

Jenni Källberg’s cosplay of Samus Aran as officially embraced by Nintendo in their official German advertising campaign.

Considered from the perspective of cosplay, the LaTurbo Avedon artist/curator character/project is a form of digitally mediated and mostly online cosplay of the person(s) whois playing her as a (meta-) artwork.

Källberg and Avedon striking classic poses.

Or, as Matthew Schwager writes:

“This is the paradox of digital drag: as endlessly documenting networks and public life become ever more tightly compacted, and the potential for governance, enforcement, and punishment ever more present, drag becomes an issue that is both close to and far away from the body. This isn’t just in the old standby terms of gender ideologies, either. If you’re unable to wear a mask, and if you’re not sure who’s watching and with what sort of tech, you resort to a disguise that lies closer to the face — makeup, hair, body language, the patent misapplication of techniques in order to become beyond the spectrum, beyond sexuality, beyond human.”

from: The Work of Drag in the Age of Digital Reproduction — Matthew Schwager (October 20, 2015)

In these 2 cases, we have, one:

(A.) a woman (Jenni Källberg) cosplaying a fictional character of woman (Samus Aran) who various players of various genders have identified with as they played her in Metroid (since 1986) and who was misgendered by some as they played her b/c they did not know she was female until they won the game, when it is explicitly made known to them

and two:

B. cosplay of a synthetic ([extremely] whitened) digital woman whois an artist/curator who makes and exhibits art about and of herself as an avatar/character/persona, through the work of the secretive author(s) of her, who wear her, online, as a costume, playing her, digitally, as a character, while creating her and her body of work as a body of work.

This play between simulations and simulacra takes place in the context of various privileges and rewards, i.e. whois it and how is it that people play these games and what is revealed if and when you win?

“Today, the entire system is fluctuating in indeterminacy, all of reality absorbed by the hyperreality of the code and of simulation. It is now a principle of simulation, and not of reality, that regulates social life. The finalities have disappeared; we are now engendered by models.” — Simulacres et Simulation (Simulacra and Simulation) — Jean Baudrillard (1981)
Jenni Källberg faces down an unmasked LaTurbo Avedon.

// jonCates