Be.longing XR

Virtual Reality experience - Amal’s journey into LA - work by Folly Feast Lab

Be.Longing XR is a filmic road diary seen through the eyes of Amal, an immigrant woman from Beirut who just Landed in Los Angeles. We join her on a ride through a fictitious reconstructed residential streetscape as she searches for signs of her queer community on the houses’ front yards, porches, and windows. Be.Longing XR documents over 35 residential houses in over 18 different residential neighborhoods in L.A. during the pandemic summer of 2019. The film is recorded from the window of a car while the radio is playing Arabic music. Get taken on this journey and start the game of looking for queer subculture symbols all around you.

This immersive experience puts visitors as active protagonists to challenge their view of their city and look at it through a queer narrative point of view.

This multimedia artwork utilizes photogrammetry and artificial intelligence to construct a virtual streetscape that explores the multifaceted nature of lesbian identity. The centerpiece consists of a series of meticulously captured houses, each digitally rendered through the process of photogrammetry. These houses, carefully edited to create a cohesive digital block, serve as symbolic representations of various lesbian subcultures – butch, femme, lipstick lesbian, etc.

The artistic merit lies not only in the creation of these digital structures, but also in the seamless integration that transcends physical limitations. Imagine sprawling mansions existing in harmony with quaint bungalows, their scales and lighting adjusted to create a believable streetscape. A virtual camera then traverses this constructed environment, mimicking the experience of a car driving by, capturing the essence of the scene.

The power of technology extends beyond mere aesthetics. Artificial intelligence plays a crucial role in assigning each house to a specific subculture. This categorization is then visually reinforced through the placement of carefully chosen objects – toolboxes for the butch identity, cats with beanies for studs, and strategically placed U-hauls and golden retrievers.

The narrative, interwoven with the digital streetscape, introduces Amal, an immigrant woman navigating the initial days of her arrival in Los Angeles. The sprawl of suburbia initially evokes a sense of alienation, a feeling mirrored by the physical separation of the houses. However, a single queer flag displayed in a yard serves as a turning point. This solitary symbol sparks a journey of discovery, transforming Amal's cab ride into a quest to identify further markers of her community within the urban landscape. Each subsequent flag, each symbol glimpsed through a window, becomes a beacon of hope, a testament to the existence of a place where she can belong.

This artwork transcends the boundaries of physical space, existing within the digital realm. It serves as a powerful meditation on the multifaceted nature of lesbian identity, celebrating its diversity and the yearning for connection. The meticulous attention to detail within the digital street reflects the richness and complexity of these subcultures, while Amal's narrative mirrors the search for belonging within this virtual world. By merging the physical and digital, the artwork offers a profound exploration of identity and community.

Project as part of group exhibition for Culture HUB LA and Re-Fest, and was shown at ADAF the Athens Digital Art Festival in 2023, and at Brea Gallery in Los Angeles in 2023. Work by Folly Feast Lab
Yara Feghali / 2024