[-empyre-] from finance to...feminism

Anna Munster a.munster at unsw.edu.au
Sun Sep 18 08:04:43 AEST 2016

I’ve really been enjoying the discussion on net art and finance but I did say I was going to use a three-way prism to think about ‘then’ and ‘now’. I thought I’d start another thread to pick up a discussion on feminism and net art.

What I’m really interested in here is the ‘return’ of feminism in the last couple of years, generally, accompanied by a younger generation of artists and poets’ interest in feminist digital/net.art from the ‘90s. I’m not sure how generalisable this is - perhaps it’s a bit more specific to Australia. But here’s an example:

Then: VNS Matrix: http://vnsmatrix.net/
Now: Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation: Laboria Cuboniks,http://www.laboriacuboniks.net/#firstPage  

I am taking liberties with the term ‘net art’ here. VNSMatrix were not strictly ‘net.artists’. Nonetheless, their presence with net culture in the ‘90s – they inhabited Lambdamoo, were active participants around discussions on net art and net critique on ‘nettle’, set up ‘recode’, a list that discussed net critique and net art in an Australian context, and were individually involved in net art projects such as ‘doll yoko’:http://dollyoko.thing.net/

Interestingly, the recently reformed for their 25 year anniversary to do a live one-off performance in 2015. 

Likewise ‘Xenofemism’ is not a net.art project as one might traditionally think net.art. BUT it consciously traces a lineage to VNSMatrix and the ‘performance’ of online and cyber identities. In some ways, we could call it contemporary networked anti-performance art (ooo even I am gagging at that mouthful of a moniker!).

Why I find it interesting is that it continues to push and explore the important relation that so much cyberfeminist and net feminist (art)practice of the ‘90s brought to light: the network and identity.

Whereas VNS Matrix located a network culture ‘erected’ on the exclusion and subjugation of the female body, Laboria Cuboniks radically engage with the re-formation of identity itself under the conditions of contemporary networks:

'If ‘cyberspace’ once offered the promise of escaping the strictures of essentialist identity categories, the climate of contemporary social media has swung forcefully in the other direction, and has become a theatre where these prostrations to identity are performed’ (from the Xenofemism manifesto)

Perhaps what both the ‘then’ and the ‘now’ of feminist ‘net' art have in common is a desire to ‘un-perform’ the network?

Thoughts? Misgivings?

Anna Munster
Associate Professor,
Faculty of Art and Design
P.O Box 259
NSW 2021
a.munster at unsw.edu.au

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