Praba Pilar, Danielle Sembieda, and I have co-curated an exhibition of work by 7 artists for the Women Eco Artist Dialogue (WEAD) entitled feminist tECnOart:
Over millennia, human beings have co-evolved with the technologies they’ve developed from planetary material, from tool making to managing water systems to nuclear energy. These technologies have had vastly asymmetrical impacts, as the balance of incalculable benefits and damages are not explicitly categorical. What has been astonishing is the rapid acceleration of technological developments and adoption across the globe over the last few decades, and the resulting social and political changes and how they impact daily life. Taken with the urgent calls for mitigating catastrophic climate change described in the 2018 Special Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we are at a crossroads on how we engage the interdependence among all organisms on Earth. In this online exhibition, WEAD focuses on cis and trans women artists who utilize technology in their art practices to further an ambitious dialogue on change.
We join the two statements of scholar Derek Rassmusen and bioartist Natalie Jeremijenko to underline the concerns raised by the artists in this exhibition: the mindset that humans can and should be masters over the rest of our biosphere. Qallunat is the Inuit word for Europeans, and writing from Nunavut, Rassmusen unpacks how persistent Euro-American ways of structuring ecosystems into independent resources to be bought and sold dismembers relations, knowledges, resources, and economies. Assuming human beings are separate and superior to the rest of matter on Earth eradicates sustainable systems that work because of relationality and reciprocity. From her Whitney Museum show For the Birds, created with Phil Taylor and the Bureau of Inverse Technology, Jeremijenko asks us to ponder how strange indeed it is to believe humans can own all other living species. Both ask us to reconsider truth, puncture illusions, and generate alternate possibilities outside of binaries revolving around the human, animal, culture, nature, tradition and technology. Whether in capitalist, communist, or feudalist economic systems, we need renewed approaches to accountability, reciprocity and sharing.
We have selected the works of women identified artists who engage the technology space and ecosystems through wildly different methodologies and approaches. From humorous to the sublime, they utilize online gaming, multimedia performance, digital processes, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, biotechnology, and scientific processes. Oglala Lakota artist Kite brings together physics, performance, carbon fiber sculptures, and immersive video and sound with Oglala Lakota knowledge systems to upset universalized Western concepts of truth. Elizabeth Demaray shares her intraspecies dilemmas by bringing out paradoxical connections between species that perturb commonly held assumptions and knowledge. Lynn Mowson transgresses acceptable boundaries by seeking empathic relations with nonhuman fellow creatures. Dornith Doherty collaborates with biologists to record the technological spaces that stop time for living matter, by preserving seeds through climate changes. micha cárdenas developed an online interactive game that shares the migration and settlement of a trans woman of color to complicate narratives of migration caused by climate change. Maria Paz Gutierrez intersects architecture and science to develop synchronizations of synthetic and living matter that detoxify air or reuse graywater. Bioartist Suzanne Anker uses technological media to explore concepts of nature, toxicity, decay, and the sublime.
Women are historically under recognized for their critical engagements with technology as makers, programmers, coders, designers, gamers, engineers, scientists, roboticists, and artists. From a vast field of creative visionaries, we also celebrate three experimental artists whose technological practices inspire us to remake worlds: Skawennati, Jeremijenko and Da Costa.
In 1996, Mohawk new media artist Skawennati Tricia Fragnito introduced the Cyber PowWows to address stereotypes that Indigenous people are a-technological and could not use technology in their work. For decades, Skawennati has created new media machinima projects that situate Indigenous storytelling in technologized landscapes, including She Falls For Ages, mixing “Haudenosaunee storytelling with science fiction to connect the deep past and the far future.” In 2005 she co-founded Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace with Jason Edward Lewis; and she is currently working on the Initiative for Indigenous Futures. As early as 1992, Natalie Jeremijenko combined engineering and art in the Bureau of Inverse Technology to question the politics of information, climate change, and corporate control over collective technologies. By 1999, Jeremijenko was cloning trees in her One Trees project, physically demonstrating the biological processes that impact genetic engineering. More recently, Jeremijenko has been using robotics and other technological systems to explore architectures of reciprocity for healing environmental destruction. Beatriz Da Costa (1974-2012) worked with robotics, micro-electronics, and biological materials to create interspecies performances, installations and public works that engaged “the responsible use of natural resources and environmental sustainability.” Da Costa collaborated with colleagues through Preemptive Media, but also created interspecies collaborations with homing pigeons, where together they gathered and distributed air quality information to the public while exploring new engagements in pigeon-human relations.
Since 1996, WEAD has supported women eco-artists, educators, curators, and writers through networking, exhibitions and programming. With this online exhibition of feminist tEChnO-art, WEAD is expanding our network to women identified artists whose work is centered on technology, social justice, and the environment.
See the exhibition here.