Seven models pose in items from the Local Legend collection.
The “mixed-reality wearable art collection” included five sculptural looks inspired by Bun Stout’s experiences as a trans person. Credit: Colectivo Multipolar

Every Chicagoan knows this city is the underdog of major metropolises. There’s no shortage of things we don’t get enough credit for. When it comes to art, I’m of the mind that our most unsung heroes right now are our new media artists–creators who are pushing technology’s creative applications and imagining new ways to blur the boundaries between analog and digital. I saw a lot of impressive stuff in this realm last year. (Ava Wanbli’s performance about avatars and transitioning from the consumer to the consumed at an underground fundraiser was a standout.) But one new media exhibition that’s especially stuck with me was Bun Stout’s fashion show Local Legend, which debuted at Co-Prosperity last July.

The self-described “mixed-reality wearable art collection” includes five sculptural looks inspired by Stout’s experiences as a trans person who’s grown up traversing the stretch of highway between Indianapolis and Chicago. Referencing iconic local visuals like the “Hell Is Real” billboard along I-65, Stout’s clothes emphasize the body as a site where local cultural terrain can be absorbed and remade, literally carrying the weight of this landscape while responding to it with playfulness and imagination. Each look includes augmented reality triggers that, when scanned, reveal fragments of poetry like bits of artificial dandelion blowing in the breeze. The collection is about the ephemeral moments that represent raucous queer joy, punk rock spirit, and extravagance amidst hostile territory. Modeled by nightlife personalities and contextualized with projections and electronic music, the powerful multimedia showcase that was “Local Legend” became the stuff of local legends.