Class divisions, Twitter performances and cam per-whore-mances: the women making online art that matters
The domain of the “net artist” is vague to say the least. Net art functions beyond binaries – where IRL begets virtual begets IRL, and so on. There’s video, performance, Twitter, poetry... It’s sometimes real and sometimes not. The following online “cewebrities” and digital agitators are feminist because of their audacity to self-mediate – to make themselves visible from the margins through the noise of Web 2.0 hegemony.
Playfully confronting gendered representations and power relations in her work, Montreal-born artist Emilie Gervais tends to apply a 90s Web 1.0 aesthetic to her work, which includes URL artworks like Blinking Girls (with Sarah Weis), backdoortrojangirl.net and the html collection of crowd-sourced works w-h-a-t-e-v-e-r.net, where contributors upload their own work under the dictate of "boy art" or "girl art". She also happens to have done a couple videos for Berlin-based pop-noire artist Butterclock.
“Couldn’t everyone’s life become a work of art?” That’s Darling, quoting Foucault, in "The Work of Art in the Age of Post-Fordist Network Production", an essay for Alana Kushnir’s Paraproduction publication, made up entirely of 140-character polemics. Probably best known for this unmediated, self-revealing Twitter performance (but a digital, video and installation artist and essayist beyond that), Darling’s focus centres on queer visibility, transparency and self-representation.
A video artist and cultural critic, Chan is concerned with gendered online environments, looking at representations of masculinity and femininity through a queer lens. Employing what she calls an “amateur aesthetic” of images and ideas pulled from the internet, often mediated in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, titles like "**.*XXX* EXTRA CREDIT ***a TOTAL jizzfest*** *" and "burning feminist DVD III" are a fair indication of Chan’s explicitly feminist concerns.
An MFA candidate in Painting at Yale School of Art, the Montenegro-born, mostly Chicago-raised artist collects cultural ephemera illustrating eroticised intercultural representations of women – particularly Eastern European ones. Exploring those stereotypical signifiers of the sexualised body in pieces like "Erotic Playing Cards, Russian, 2007" and her most recent, "Sample XXX Puzzle-- Pin-up Land™ Cum-centration", it exposes the nuances and #NSFW of the online gaze.
Probably one of the better-known artists of gen 2.0, the CalArts-educated “camgirl” isn’t explicitly subversive but worth a mention as a leader in bringing awareness of woman net artists to a broader public. Winning a Frieze film commission for her "Bridal Shower" (featuring music by nightcoregirl) video last year, Cortright’s self-realised subjectivities work by functioning within, rather than disrupting, normative structures. That’s both in playing with stereotypes of ‘feminine’ online behaviours and using readily available consumer software to produce them.
An artist and writer, Black explores contemporary forms of representation, production and the economics of desire through recombining popular imagery of violence and neo-colonial war. Their "Further Materials Toward a Theory of the Hot Babe", published in The New Inquiry, explored the augmented self and its links to commodity production, while also integrating text into videos like this recent "Intensive Care/Hot New Track" video where “love is the theory and shame is the practice”.
Watch the film here.
As promoter of the power of the ‘selfie’, performance artist and “amateur social scientist”, Hirsch’s culture-jamming videos gained popularity in the Scandalishious series in 2009. She continues to parody, poke fun and promote self-mediation within and in opposition to mainstream media, through her attention-seeking “camwhore” performance.
It’s worth noting the role of verbal language in a lot of art online. Ulman in some ways represents an art world expanding into poetry, buoyed by the nature of a medium built on symbols and characters. Activated through social networks and produced across media, the artist-poet explores poverty, class divisions and hierarchy from the perspective of the personal.
Sculptor, performer and installation artist Kulesh also makes the political personal by accessing and exploring the hidden implications and consequences of popular culture. Dealing in the “multiplicities of being defined”, the “hyper-stylised cyborgs” of her "As Long As You Love Me: A love letter from Dakota to Donna" looks at issues of authenticity and the possibilities of (hyper) self-realisation through the online avatar.
White’s diaristic entries and personal mantras are heaped across her vlogs, Tumblr and Twitter in an effort to transmit unmediated experience as part of (but still separate to) her artistic practice. As difficult to define as a person’s core being, the lack of distinction between honesty and performance, art and the everyday, comes as an effort to avoid external classification and the ultimate commodification of White as artist, artwork and woman.