Re: [-empyre-] Reshaping the Field - Women, Art, and Technology

Hello everybody!

Here is a little more information on the book; followed by a few questions.

Documenting the core role of women in creating and shaping  
media/new media, WOMEN, ART, AND TECHNOLOGY, (MIT PRESS, 2003;
Leonardo Series), is an extensive compendium of the work of women
artists in pioneering and continuing to shape new media practice. 
Edited by Judy Malloy, the book features overviews of the history
and foundations of the field by Kathy Brew, artist and former
director of the new media initiative ThunderGulch;
artist/networker Anna Couey; critic Margaret Morse;
artist/educator Sheila Pinkel; and critic/curator Patric Prince.
The Foreword is by Pat Bentson. 
Artist contributors include computer graphics artists Rebecca
Allen, Donna Cox, and Diane Fenster; video artists Dara Birnbaum,
Joan Jonas, Valerie Soe, and Steina Vasulka; composers Cecile Le
Prado, Pauline Oliveros, and Pamela Z; interactive artists
Jennifer Hall and Blyth Hazen, Agnes Hegedus, Lynn Hershman, Nancy
Paterson, and Sonya Rapoport; virtual reality artists Char Davies
and Brenda Laurel; net artists Monika Fleischmann and Wolfgang
Strauss, Kathy Rae Huffman and Eva Wohlgemuth, 
and Sandy Stone; choreographers Dawn Stoppiello and Mark Coniglio
and Linda Austin and musician Leslie Ross; and
environmental/biotech artists Jo Hanson, Helen and Newton
Harrison, and Nell Tenhaaf. Critics include 
Martha Burkle Bonecchi, Jaishree Odin, Simone Osthoff, Zoe Sofia,
and Carol Stakenas.  


As a writer of dense, interactive, random, or parallel tracked 
narratives, I want to interface this book in multiple ways.  

One beginning is the primary role of women in the development of 
art at the intersection of technology. This role is documented 
both in the book and on the website at which accompanies it. 

Shapers of new media -- Sonya Rapoport, Lynn Hershman, Steina
Vasulka, for instance, set forth the development of their work --
from Lynn Hershman's paper that documents a progression from her
performative Roberta Breitmore to the viewer relationship with
Marion's body in Deep Contact; to Dawn Stoppiello's wired body in
Troika Ranch performances; to Zoe Sophia's paper on "Contested
Futures," in which she writes "For many women artists working with
digital media, the body's physicality is not transcended or
obsolesced by technology; rather it is a source of poetic efforts
to at once use and counteract the machine's own anti-body logics
by using it as a medium to explore organic or visceral forms."

Another beginning is the question of the role of gender in the
creation of new media. In MUD/MOO environments, (those dense,
tricksy, programmable art-like simulations of a distortedly
mirrored real world where creating a work of art is like
fabricating a meaningful box within an already exquisitely
fabricated container) when initially you describe your
"character", when you read other's descriptions 
of themselves, it is clear that gender is a key component.  
However, in these environments, ambivalent, androgenous, 
deceptive, or experimental approaches to gender are 
commonplace, and eventually identity is as deeply bound up in 
interaction with fellow players and in movement and situation 
within the virtual space.   

Another beginning is the multiple paths that each artist and/or
critic brings to the book. 

You may, for instance, follow a path in the book that immerses you
in Char Davies' Ephemere, which, as has been all of her work of
the past fifteen years, is grounded in "Nature" as metaphor.  

"This land's trees and roots and  rocks, its ponds and mountain 
streams, its bloomings and witherings through time, have become 
luminous, as present in my imagination as in actuality," she 
writes. "As I ramble among their physical manifestations  
throughout the seasons and flowing light they in turn appear in my
work like apparitions in a haunting reciprocity between the 
virtual and the real."   

Or you may linger in Sonya Rapoport's intellectual, interactive, 
information based works -- Digital Mudra, for instance, 
where the Mudra words you select become "a gesture-dance sequence 
on the monitor," and, as you watch, the printer embodies them. 
"The various responses of the participants created the media, i.e.
the 'paint' to be mixed, manipulated and applied with the use of 
the computer 'brush' --  developing into a grand finale of an 
integrated interactive artwork," she writes in her chapter in the 

Another beginning is the contingent but different approaches to
new media art making that are set forth in the book, ranging from
Jo Hanson's neighborhood environmental actions to Jocy de
Oliveria's multimedia merging of electroacoustic music, theater,
text, and images.

"In my work I've used video, text, pop culture artifacts, 
autobiography and interactive elements, employing technology both 
high (computer terminals, electronic message boards, video 
monitors) and low (zoetropes, viewer-generated graffiti, artist's 
books) to look at issues of culture and identity in the 
information age. I'm interested in an organic use of 
technology, as a vehicle for the requirements of the creative 
concept," Valerie Soe writes. "In other words, I let the artwork's
content dictate the choice of media, rather than simply using
technology for its own sake."  

Nancy Paterson's approach is driven both by the content and by 
the exploration of technology.

"Further expanding my artistic practice, I have recently produced
a short video for BRAVO! titled Coppelia. Produced as Artist in 
Residence at the School for Communication Arts, Seneca@York, 
(Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology, Toronto), this 
dance/robotics project utilizes ORAD virtual set technology. This 
was an opportunity for me to experiment with choreography and 
collaboration on the development of an audio sound track. I am 
currently developing a performance project which will further 
explore the potential of Seneca@York's Vicon  
motion-capture technology in conjunction with the ORAD," she notes
in her paper on the book's website.  

Pamela Z comments on the energy that such experimentation beings
to the work:

I have made some of my greatest strides and artists discoveries
whenever I have begun to employ a new tool to make my work," she

Another path through the book  is the role of collaboration and
audience interaction in creating new media work. For instance
Donna Cox, strongly situates collaborative processes at the core
of her work. She emphasizes the complexity of the work and the
degree of knowledge required as she moved from being an individual
artist to working as part of a team: "The process of collaboration
was a total break from the former method of working alone to
create computer art. In 1987, I formulated the concept 
of interdisciplinary Renaissance Teams since the problems in 
visualization often required the expertise of several disciplines,
including art, science, and technology"   
At Do While Studio in Boston, Jennifer Hall and Blyth Hazen are   
currently working with artists, engineers, management 
consultants, physicist, neurologists, and anthropologists.  
"These kinds of creative partnerships are at the heart of making 
art at Do While Studio," they write in their chapter. "..... We 
see these collaborative alliances as an important resources for 
individual artists. "   
"From its inception DWA Web Action was conceived as a   
community based endeavor which relied on the cooperation of many  
individuals to reveal an aspect of this unique electronic matrix  
motivated by an network of activism already present in the arts   
community," Carol Stekanis writes about the collaborate project 
Creative Time produced for Day Without Art. 

As Anna Couey, whose Imagining the Information Age was 
shaped by participants on different systems, states: "our work has
sought to include not only ourselves, but all people in building a
multifaceted cultural narrative: bringing disparate worlds 
together to create a world that reflects and respects 'us.'"   


I have not been here -- on empyre -- very long and do not know 
exactly how to begin.  Perhaps the book or my introduction have
raised some questions?

Also, a few of the contributors may be joining us here soon.
It is December, so their appearances may be brief.

What particularly interests me -- for two reasons: one is that the
book was put together long ago and thus the website will present
more current work and the other is that a chapter on webworks was
withdrawn from the book at the last moment  -- is how the
participants on this list see gender issues in the contemporary
Internet and, in particular, what recent work by women is of

Perhaps this is a good starting point.  Are there women on the
list who would be willing to describe their recent work?  Melinda,
what are you working on?

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