[-empyre-] www.ggg.cc - games/gender/girls

Hi empyreans, and thanks to Melinda for asking me to lead some discussion on cyberfeminism (and some other spin-off topics) with co-host Mary Flanagan.

The eympure discussion of the last few weeks on (dis)embodiment, virtual identities, the abject leads in well to a discussion of early cyberfeminism. I am interested in looking at shifts in cyberfeminism over the last 10 - 12 years, and particularly from my own perspective as an artist involved in the early cyberfeminist movement. Perhaps to give you some of my background - I was a founding member of the Australian artists collective VNS Matrix, who began making collaborative digital artworks in the early 1990's. The group was formed in part as a response to ideas and theories emerging at the time, ranging from the 'cyberpunk' of William Gibson's 'Neuromancer' to Haraway's 'Cyborg Manifesto'. The group was also strongly influenced by French feminist theory and in particular our interpretations of Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray - notions of a body exisiting in liminal or abject space - a body with no end or beginning, a sort of ecstatic body which existed outside of a predetermined physical 'patriarchal' space.

Our first major artwork was Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Century...a text piece which also became the graphic centrepiece of a 6 metre x 2 metre billboard, which was exhibited quite extensively in Australia with smaller versions exhibited internationally. Our manifesto combined elements of French feminist theory with references to the body...and situated the female body as a direct link to the computer...a sort of wet tactile interface to the matrix. Our work is very much tongue in cheek, we wanted to create a space for playful imaginative intervention into computer culture and to create a space for female dialogue into a predominantly male sphere.

Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Century

we are the modern cunt
positive anti reason
unbounded unleashed unforgiving
we see art with out cunt we make art with our cunt
we believe in jouissance madness holiness and poetry
we are the virus of the new world disorder
rupturing the symbolic from within
saboteurs of big daddy mainframe
the clitoris is a direct line to the matrix
terminators of the moral code
mercenaries of slime
go down on the altar of abjection
seeking the visceral temple we speak in tongues
infiltrating disrupting disseminating
corrupting the discourse
we are the future cunt

During the early 1990's English theorist Sadie Plant had also coined the term 'cyberfeminism'. By pure serendipity, both VNS Matrix and Plant were thinking about the body in cyberspace, and the potential for virtual identities to create a rupture in gender identity...was it possible to leave your gender behind in cyberspace...and what is the potential for other sorts of identities to emerge. For VNS Matrix and Plant, these ideas were liberating, and enabled a positive and critical engagement with cybertheory of the time. Other key figures around this time included Allucquere Rosanne/Sandy Stone and Linda Dement, who were very much challenging ideas of online identity and flesh in cyberspace.

These first manifestations of cyberfeminism were imbued with a sense of idealism, with an attitude that 'cyberspace' was a new kind of frontier. I am interested in the next month to look at some questions concerning the trajectory of cyberfeminism, and indeed the sense of play within technoculture. To what extent has new media art practice overcome the fascination with technology and embarked on an engagement with issues of identity, sexuality and political change? What sort of spaces has cyberfeminism created for women to engage with technology, or has cyberfeminism been irrelevent in this? One of the VNS Matrix projects was to investigate the potential of developing games for girls. The prototype of the game project BAD CODE was an attempt at this, but unfortunately has never made it on to the shelves of gaming stores. Is there a market for girl gaming and who are the developers?

I hope that these questions spark some interest and I look forward to comments from the list and from Mary Flanagan a bit later in the month,

cheers Julianne

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