[-empyre-] on feminism and the cyclical nature of tools and technologies

Timothy Conway Murray tcm1 at cornell.edu
Fri Feb 27 07:54:10 AEDT 2015

Dear Melinda,

Thanks ever so much for your tremendously thoughtful, provocative, and
passionate posts. What a delight for us to enjoy your voice this month
back on your cherished -empyre-.  Your post made me cherish anew the first
time I met you when you were demonstrating -empyrean- in the huge musty
factory space of ISEA Nagoya in 2002.  What a keen coincidence it was for
me to discover the emergent listserv at the same moment that I was
founding the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art at Cornell, for which
the new media artwork from the Pacific Rim has been so fundamental.  Who
would have thought back then that Goldsen would end up sponsoring the
moderating end of -empyre- many years later, and that I would be (very
feebly and occasionally) assisting Renate in laboring for its continued
existence.  What's been fascinating to me has been to witness the
intersecting development of the many tools you so elegantly describe here.
 Indeed, this very multifaceted approach also has guided my efforts at
building the ever-changing edifice of the Goldsen Archive, which began as
a site to house a critical mass of artwork created on CD-Rom and the net,
and since has morphed into a space for all kinds of digital preservation,
creation and its documentation, as well as an acknowlegment, born of the
archival event, that the Goldsen should also expand to include the
analogue/digital bridge of video art and related disciplines.

It's difficult to guage the extent of the debt to the Goldsen framework to
your work with your Australian feminist peers who have so influenced me
since my first visit with many of them in Sydney in 2007 (thanks
especially to Norie Neumark and Maria Miranda who graciously introduced me
around).  What's been crucial is the collaborative spirit of our work
together that flows out into our approach to the tools of craft, language,
display, interaction, theorizing and even archiving.  So it's been very
important that the archived historical discourse of the many years of
-empyre- have a prominent place in the Goldsen imaginary and architecture,
and one we are committed to protecting if various Australian institutional
situations were to evolve.  Many of our newer subscribers might not
realize that one our list's most important tools, the server and
mail/archiving software, are still housed graciously by the University of
New South Wales.  Indeed we had a fascinating brief tools crisis a couple
of months back when our host, the former College of Fine Arts, changed its
name to the College of Art and Design and also changed the COFA URL
without thinking to tell its loyal users.  For a brief period, as we tried
to figure out from Ithaca, NY, why the site when dead, the life and memory
of -empyre- went as black as did the life and memory of COFA -- which for
me brings back my early conversations with current COFA faculty like Jill
Bennett, Brenda Croft, and Anna Munster at a moment when feminism, tech,
and politics were winding their way comfortably and uncomfortably through
the COFA hallways. Of course, your leadership in bringing together various
communinities via -empyre- no doubt assisted enormously in these kinds of
institutional transitions (or sparked them!).

So as we think through the cultural contexts of tools this month, I'M so
pleased that we've had the occasion to celebrate your creation of the tool
of -empyre-.  Our hope is to keep it flourishing as it morphs and changes.

All my best,


On 2/25/15 9:34 AM, "Melinda Rackham" <melinda at subtle.net> wrote:

>----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>hello again..
>Of FemTechNet Anne wrote  ³Our mantra became:  ³WHO you learn with is as
>important as what you learn.² What a wonderful initiative. Tracey posted
>many great project links as well. Reality creates Reality - the world is
>still owned by a few men who maintain the privilege of themselves and
>other men. Feminism has been using tools and technologies for 150 years
>with some good success, however we saw it at the Academy Awards:  70% of
>the stories we see are stories of men where women do not speak to each
>other except to talk about men, and women still only earn 40% of male
>wages in the entertainment industry.
>Writing is a tool. I recall years ago Australian video/performance art
>pioneer Jill Scott impressing on me the importance of writing on and
>citing other women. I particularly like the simple cut and paste tools of
>Elvis Richardson.. she cuts names out of art magazine with scissors and
>pastes them on boxboard monuments with glue to graphically illustrate the
>inequalities in writing on women artists.
>Peer groups are a tool. Womens networked groups provided access to
>technologies and sistas -  dinners, in person meet ups, mentoring,
>introductions, and practicalities of art practice like travel and
>residences sublets and house swaps etc. Old Boys Network OBN - a
>cyberfeminist alliance initiated by Cornelia Sollfrank in 1997 in Berlin,
> http://www.obn.org ; and the international FACES - "an international
>mailing list that connects women activists, artists, critics,
>theoreticians, technicians, journalists, researchers, programmers,
>networkers, web designers and educators: women who share an interest in
>the media and communication arts" have done this for many years.
>Mentoring and nurturing are tools. Which takes me back to early learning
>spaces on the internet. Before user friendly software interfaces or
>university courses it was all about shared quests in localised (but
>geographically global) communities -  you learnt from like minded
>strangers on BBS or IRC chat or list-serve.  And in turn you taught
>others. Miss Despoinas Hackspace has been home-brewed in Hobart (at the
>bottom of Australia) by Nancy Mauro-Flude since 2008. Its a " salon for
>experimental research, radical aesthetics, media design, production and
>exchange underlined by modes of maker culture. "  Teaching others to make
>it and break it. http://miss-hack.org/
>I've just hookedup via crackbook with some women I went to University
>with 20 years ago. It was 1995 and we taught ourselves to hand code HTML
>and curated an online show - Wollongong World Women Online WWWO, and
>taught 30 other women how to make a web page which was in the show. Our
>Australian site was part of The World¹s Women Online! a project developed
>by Muriel Magenta at Arizona State University for presentation at the
>1995 the Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing. At
>that time when women made up less than 10% of internet users, just
>introducing the internet on a computer to another woman was a massive
>technological tool for art and change. The web site is dead, but we think
>we can put about 20% of it back together form our bit of files.
>Archiving, leaving a legacy, is a tool.
>One of the reasons I've strayed away from online culture over the past
>years is that apart from small pockets it sometimes seems like a soma
>delivery system. Where I've strayed to is back into local geographical
>communities, learning from peer environments and in turn sharing my
>technical and knowledge skills to strengthen networks and allow more
>advocacy reach. I won't post any links here as they are private
>communities, but they involve basic human needs like Shelter in
>affordable housing; identity and dignity in addressing the ongoing
>physical and psychological trauma of market driven forced Adoptions
>practices; and the rights of children in the era of "rent a 3rd world
>womb" surrogacy.  I use off the shelf space like groupspaces.com - easy
>to modify, easy to maintain by anyone with minimal technical knowledge,
>and have all the basics a group needs for sharing communication in both
>imagery and texts. It could be something better, faster, slicker, free,
>open source, but thats not the important aspect of this tool.
>A tool is context specific. I am writing my memoir which explores the
>gulf created when a child and mother are forcibly separated at birth. I
>was removed from my 20-year-old unmarried mother at birth, and then lost
>my only child to forced adoption aged 15. In writing it I use the same
>Nuance Dragon voice recognition software that Simon uses in his Crosstalk
>project. It works for me as I need to speak from my belly - engaging my
>emotions freely in this highly personal project. If i'm typing with my
>critical editorial fingers on keyboard the flow is different.I  like the
>jaw/skull bone pick ups you describe Simon, sounds particularly good for
>gnashing of teeth...
>So tools and technologies don't need to be new, specialised, expensive or
>complex, and often the more straight fwd the longer lasting and more far
>reaching their outcomes. Thats why I used the rather daggy list serv
>format for -empyre-  with plain text messages. It was, and still is, easy
>to use, easy to contain, easy to search, and has no distractions.  In
>2002 I  was hoping -empyre- would a space were it was "safe" to make
>propositions which left one a little giddy or vulnerable - but I guess
>the reality is text based interaction becomes performative in a knowledge
>based economy and status anxiety precludes these sorts of risks. Maybe
>I'm wrong?
>empyre forum
>empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au

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