. community —

talking to a woman's chest

Currently featured at the @art web site, an electronic gallery of
University of Illinois' School of Art and design, is Stephanie Cunningham's
most recent on-line art project SILENCE. SILENCE sets out to depict some
of the ways in which women are systematically deprived of voice in real and
electronic spaces.

The site consists of a dozen or so fast-loading pages organized into four
paths. Cunningham uses lightly photoshopped images to illustrate her
points: a human spinal column behind the text "sticks and stones may break
my bones…" and a woman with her mouth erased beneath "names will silence
my voice." Quotations from books on name-calling and gendered
communication in cyberspace are sprinkled throughout. At one point we are
invited to contribute personal experiences: "submit a word or experience
that threatened your voice." I happily took the opportunity to describe an
unpleasant encounter with a truck driver, but was disappointed to find that
this only resulted in "thank-you for contributing your voice."

Some of the Cunningham's images are compelling, others predictable and
played out. Were her choice of words more specific, Cunningham's use of
sparse text on blank backgrounds might stir in her viewers a more visceral
response. But the flavor of this site is distinctly heavy-handed,
explanatory, pedantic. SILENCE is less an exploration of how communicative
strategies that serve to silence women in the physical world (street
harassment, talking to a woman's chest) might carry over into internet
communications than a sampling of disappointingly simplified topics, any
one of which alone might provide an interesting starting point for a
web-based art work.

S I L E N C E by Stephanie Cunningham

Some of Cunningham's earlier works make more direct use of the web's
ability to allow interactive, collaborative creation, and address similar
(but more manegable) themes. Check out: