Art, Art History and Design, School of


First Advisor

Dana Fritz

Second Advisor

Walker Pickering

Third Advisor

Ash Eliza Smith

Date of this Version

Spring 5-5-2023


Molesso, Penny W. SPIT BRIMMING WITH FUTURES. 2023. [MFA THESIS, University of Nebraska-Lincoln]. UNL Digital Commons.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Fine Arts, Major: Art, Under the Supervision of Professor Walker Pickering. Lincoln, NE: May, 2023

Copyright © 2023 Penny Molesso


SPIT BRIMMING WITH FUTURES is an immersive video and audio installation that uses ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) to investigate the intersection of transgender and neurodivergent identity, expressing an urgent need to imagine stories about transgender, autistic people that affirm our agency and autonomy amidst a political climate that weaponizes neurodivergence to delegitimize trans experiences. The American political right’s vilification of transgender people is used to uphold structures of white supremacy and heteropatriarchy that become destabilized when rigid binary gender categories are challenged. The political right has a vested interest in keeping trans people out of public view, thus weaponizing the internet’s capacity for generating trans support networks and resources, and positing trans identity as a “social contagion” that is transmitted online. Contemporary visual culture has a tendency towards prioritizing visibility as an outcome of trans representation, when in reality these visual representations and their dissemination online can result in increased violence against trans people. I use ASMR to produce a non-visual representation of trans embodiment.

ASMR refers to a tingling sensation that begins in the scalp and emanates down the neck and spine. The sensation is triggered by sounds, usually whispering, tapping, or other soft tones. ASMR video content on social media platforms is an intimate technology; often involving personal attention and care, it fosters a connection between listener and creator that extends beyond the digital interface to produce bodily sensations. I use binaural audio to create a sense of presence that orients the listeners into a virtual, intimate proximity to the speaker. I employ these techniques to ground the installation’s trans narratives in physical sensations and audio-spatial presence, so that the story resonates in the listener’s body. This produces a representation of transness that is not grounded in visibility, rather it produces a haunting, a force that can be felt even without being seen.

SPIT BRIMMING WITH FUTURES imagines what a neurodivergent, queer future could look like, where the categories of gender begin to dissolve and society, rather than neurodivergent people, is measured by its functionality in embracing non-dominant forms of communication, embodiment, and expression.

Advisor: Dana Fritz