Cyberfem. Feminisms on the electronic landscape.

Cyberfem. Feminisms on the electronic landscape.
curated by Ana Martinez-Collado
October 20th, 2006 - January 21st, 2007
Espai d'art contemporani de Castello (EACC), Castello, Spain

Cyberfem. Feminisms on the electronic landscape, a wider territory; a hybrid space for creativity and activism, constructed with the new digital technologies. For just over a decade now, we have been seeing the rapid revolution and permanent redefinition of feminist issues, policies on identity, artistic practices and new technologies. Theoretical discourses that widen their paradigms and become polluted by other disciplines, myths and stereotypes, are questioned. Artistic practices that reach beyond their own limits, nomad identities, all in the context of gradually advancing information technology.

At the heart of the debate is the issue of identity. It is, unavoidably, a political issue, based on a premise that is fast becoming a paradigm during these first few years of the 21st century: the concept of identity as a “social construct”. The cyborg identity (or identities) is used as a visual metaphor for contemporary subjects. Today, more than ever, Donna Haraway’s famous affirmation that “we are all Cyborgs now” is no longer such a stunning and provocative statement. But what in fact are we? What race, sex, identity, sexuality, race, cultural identity…? Representing identity is, today, a more attractive and dangerous battlefield than ever before.

It involves the construction, redefinition and vindication of new configurations of identity in a new technological and information-based social fabric. In the early stages, artists, critics, political activists and historians were drawn by the ide of colonizing the web and building on the larger landscape provided by IT communications. Driven on by a final Utopian urge, they got involved in cyberspace with the purpose of making global creativity and universal freedom a reality.

It was in this context that feminism encountered a wide-open space, full of possibilities; web territory was clearly a “seductive” area for women to get involved in: this was cyber-feminism. The origins of cyber-feminism coincided with the growth of the wider-ranging feminism typical of the 1990s. It was a feminism that burst onto the culture scene, expanding its theoretical and practical developments. Feminism, like the entire modern programme, has undergone an intensely self-critical process, distancing itself from any form of dogmatism and opening its doors to a multitude of narrative options. These forms of feminism extended their boundaries in terms of recounting experience, discussions on gender and sex, the intercultural universe and the development of new technologies.

Today, to talk of (cyber)-feminism - feminism, the Internet, art, and activism - is to talk of experimental creativity, communication, research, interactivity, activism and association. The Internet has become firmly established as a space where women are visible from multiple and diverse angles.

This multi-faceted diversity was made apparent at the very beginning of the so-called cyber-feminist movement. The movement’s theoretical foundations were provided by Donna Haraway, Sadie Plant, or the scandalous and provocative VNS Matrix. But it became an actual movement when, in September 1997, the First Cyber-feminist International was held during Documenta X, organised by OBN (Old Boys Network).

The aim of the exhibition Cyberfem. Feminisms on the electronic landscape, is to provide an overview of the diverse range of options, discourses and narratives in which women are involved, in the expanded territory provided by the new technologies. It is an open landscape, in which different discourses on gender, sex, controversial biotechnology and intercultural debates all converge, in the global context of new information technology.

This diversity is a feature of the selected participants; artists, critics and activists, both solo and in groups. By widening the field, the chosen formats are also affected, ranging from pieces designed exclusively as Web projects, to installation pieces, performances and associative projects.

Faced with a state of permanent confrontation, conflict and ambiguity, the key to establishing an organised understanding of visual imagery is to take a stance. Taking a stance implies responsibility and political commitment. Technologies are ways of life, social orders, ways of viewing things. World disputes are disputes about how to see things. How should we look at things? Where should we look at them from?

Cyberfem is an attempt to show us this process and query its potential developments in the future. In the context of current geo-political, economic and cultural conflict, a wider, or expanded, version of cyber-feminism can, via partial policies, help to keep presumptions of difference within the same social order alive, and help us to visualize these differences.

Cyberfem imposes its expanded model of projects, embracing installations using various digital technologies, ranging from video to the PC screen with incorporated web devices, interactive projects, performances, lectures, documentation and Web projects. In most cases there is a notable incursion of the expanded field of feminist production into the electronic space, fostering an interrelation of real and virtual spaces as specific to the post-media condition of our culture.

The exhibition occupies the main spaces at the Espai d´Art Contemporani of Castello. In some cases, the projects step outside the confines of the museum walls with performances, works in the public space and off-museum devices.

Participating artists:
Annie Abrahams, Natalie Bookchin & Alexei Shulguin, Critical Art Ensemble, Salome Cuesta, Shu Lea Cheang, Coco Fusco & Ricardo Dominguez, Cindy Gabriela Flores, Dora Garcia, Marina Grzinic & Aina Smid, Lynn Hershmann, Identity\_Runners (Diane Ludin, Agnese Trocchi, Francesca da Rimini), Deb King, Olia Lialina, Jess Loseby, Margot Lovejoy, Kristin Lucas, Prema Murthy, Ana Navarrete, OBN (Old Boys Network), Julia Scher, Anne-Marie Schleiner & Talice Lee, Elisabeth Smolarz, Evelin Stermitz, Cornelia Sollfrank, subRosa (Hyla Willis Faith Wilding and James Tsang), Victoria Vesna, Linda Wallace and Eva Wohlgemuth.