This week, we’ve begun to explore the emerging and fascinating world of Net Art. In order to help familiarize us with more of the purview of this field, we were asked to explore the works of different artists and collectives. (Heck yeah!)
I chose to explore the net art works of three very different people(?). Each work drew me to it for varied reasons. Mostly, I’m interested in how online spaces intersect with practices of identity construction so I gravitated towards works that explore that subject matter.
The first artist who’s work I looked at is one I am familiar with: Emilio Vavarella. For my thesis, I have explored some of his work. Of particular interest to me is his Digital Skins series. In this collection, Vavarella experiments with the manipulation of the human form in digital spaces. The purpose of this project seems to be exploratory. Vavarella seems interested in how digital spaces affect/challenge the boundaries of self and what is considered to be part of self. Interestingly, Vavarella also touches upon the idea of the skinwalker which is a creature from Navajo lore who was believed to be able to project themselves into your body and become you by just making eye contact. This ancient idea of identity theft is interesting to contrast against contemporary instances of the act which, also, often involve minimal contact with you but can have life-altering affects.
Of the importance of this project, Vavarella states, “In today’s network society, bodies have left that organic condition and are characterized by transient statuses: individuals have become di-viduals, data aggregates, samples, signals. The last boundary between us and the world, our skin, has become a transient membrane that changes along with the trans- and meta- human forms under it. The space that was occupied by the skinwalkers of the past has been taken over by infinite reconfigurations and mediations. What remains the same is that to be human still means to constantly shift through generative metamorphosis, corruptions, and de-generations that escape any clear categorization.”
I give this series a 10/10 and definitely recommend checking it out. I think it asks us to consider our evolving place in digital spaces and how digital spaces are changing our perceptions of self and what constitutes as self.
Another work I explored is Mouchette. To me, this work really toes the line between art and Elit. I was interested in this work because it was described as a piece that explores issues of identity online. According to its entry in the Net Art Anthology, this is an interactive work that explores the fictional life of a young girl who is morbidly fascinated with topics such as suicide and death. (This work is inspired by a Robert Bresson film of the same name–which was based upon a Georges Bernanos book–in which a young teenage girl does commit suicide after a life of tragedy.) In this piece, you can respond to inquiries made by Mouchette (which means “little fly” in French) and kind of follow her oddly naive yet surprisingly serious thoughts. The text is often accompanied by grainy, provocative images that, at times, contrast with the textual content.
Honestly, I find the work to be morbidly fascinating in the same way that Jason Nelson’s This is how you will die is fascinating. As Mouchette precedes Nelson’s work, I wonder if any inspiration was drawn from it? That said, I do recognize that this work could be a little disturbing or triggering for some people (especially the feature where you suggest the best way for a 13 year old girl to commit suicide). I think being provocative and “edgy” is only part of the work’s purpose, though. More, I think the work is meant to be a reflective piece, one in which we can explore the darker parts of ourselves and our culture in order to better ourselves and our world. The digital aspect of the world seems also to ask us to consider how digitization affects the ways we relate to ourselves and our world.
I’m going to give this work an 8/10 because I feel like it really provides a meaningful experience in which users actively participate with others in the processes of identity construction.
The last net art work I reviewed this week is the BODY ANXIETY project. I chose to review this work because the prescription of its purposes reminded me of the intent of the Guerrilla Girls collective. Essentially, both seek to challenge the male gaze of the world and, particularly, the male gaze of the female experience and the worth of that experience. The net art project seeks to accomplish this through female artists employing video and other digital mediums to capture their experiences and share them online. This project seems to be about changing the narrative around female identity in public spaces and, more, about reclaiming that identity by utilizing new spaces for diverse voices provided by the Internet. It’s about reframing female identity.
As a female-identifying person myself, I found this collective to be very powerful and inspiring. The featured approaches to gender expression are all so different and powerful in their own ways. I found May Waver’s contribution to be particularly compelling to me. The “glitchy” kind of replication she uses to distort her images reminds me of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe prints. I think Waver’s work, in some ways, re-imagines the mass production and commodification of the female experience in the digital age. It’s just a constant bombardment. The female form is used as an advertising tool so often we’re numb to it. Waver’s work explores how that affects our perspective on ourselves in our daily lives.
I give this collective a 9/10 because I think it provides an excellent lens on what the female experience is in the digital age. I think it’s focus on reasserting and a reclaiming a sense of sense from the so often toxic miasma of contemporary digital life is incredibly important.
Some pictures of Guerrilla Girls work from my latest visit to the Brooklyn Museum of art.
I hope you enjoyed my perspective on these works and decide to check some of these pieces out for yourselves! Net art is definitely expanding what it means to not only create in the digital age but it means to be at this moment in time.
~Till next time~