Women behaving badly, public discussion during Creating the Feminist Archive Means: Facing the Real to the Most Extent, Bring In Take Out Feminist Archive, Kapelica Gallery, Ljubljana, 9th March, 2012
What brought us together is on the one hand my work with Feminist emission at Radio Student and on the other the Digital video archive DIVA Station in the framework of SCCA, Centre for Contemporary Art Ljubljana with which I’ve been affiliated since 2007. In this practical experience of constructing an archive from fairly non-organised material, we’ve been playing with taxonomies and categorisation of material, physical and digital tagging, building a web portal, understanding relations between the master and copies, digitation etc.
We came to realise that any given archive is based on criteria of discrimination rather than inclusivity. This is not simply a conservation of documents, but rather a somewhat horizontal inclusion of a vast number of materials. An archive is actually an oblique field that may include extremely various art practices. In this sense, the criterion of discrimination is an affirmative act for any archive and it allows it to devote special attention to localised art productions.
At SCCA one point of discrimination is the inclusion of only those productions that had been produced by artists living and working in Slovenia or artists of Slovene origin working elsewhere. For many of the feminist archives the basic point of discrimination would of course not be based on the point of nationality, but they rely on the international and sometimes grass root networks of feminist artists. Such examples are for instance www.ArtFEM.tv organised by Evelin Stermitz, who had presented her work at the Red Dawns, I think it must have been two years ago.
Another case of such networking would be video screenings by Kolektiva.org organised by Vesna Bukovec, Lada Cerar and Metka Zupanič. You’ve probably seen Vesna Bukovec’s current exhibition of her solo work at Alkatraz Gallery. So, their screenings are based on the network of video festivals and selections by other people who rely on a personal approach to selection. Just recently they’ve shown FemLink the International Video Collages. But from the perspective of an archive (Well, they are not claiming that they are doing an archive but rather a video library of things.) So, they have noticed their method of networked communication doesn’t always satisfy the need for quality in which sense it helps to implement another level of discrimination.
So, after about five years of working on DIVA Station archive, we have accumulated and sorted most of the materials and now comes the fun part. The reason why building an archive is at all significant, is not to have all the cultural value put somewhere in the storage to collect dust but rather to provide us with the materials to conduct research and promote a much wider notion of an archive. Archive in the broader sense is not just an accumulation but first and foremost everything that we can name or speak about. It is the system that governs the appearance of statements as unique events. The archive is what determines that all this things said do not accumulate endlessly and in an amorphous mass, nor are they inscribed in the unbroken linearity, but they are grouped together in distinct figures, composed together in accordance with multiple relations, maintained or blurred in accordance with specific regularities.
An art history discussion on media archeology and Internet usage by women artists and artivists as a medium for testing alternative modes of communication, language construction, coding, anti-patriarchal taxonomies and interface architecture, autonomous servers, etc.
Women behaving badly in the early Internet communities of the 1990s is directly connected to political statements and forms of social protest by artists such as Olia Lialina in her work Agatha Appears or multi-person identity Netochka Nezvanova who also addressed the early questions of the relation of Internet identity to the physical bodies, talking about nl-body, de-body, dk-body, etc. By method of misbehaviour and vulgar conduct Netochka revealed how some forms of protests were actually inherent to the prevailing hegemonic system; how socio-political engagement in art and net communities that promoted democratisation of communication were utilised by the dominant structures in order to provide them with legitimacy by proclaiming themselves free and open while completely ignoring social equalities or the digital divide. Netochka was famous or rather infamous for sending a huge quantity of emails to many international lists, using her own cryptic language.
The question at hand is how to create one’s own language in order to reject the linear dictate of the written language. A poetic writing that blurs the boundaries between the lesible and the scriptable text may be found in code poetry by an Australian based artist Mary-Anne Breeze alias Mez Breeze or Netwurker that combines text, code, image and sound in multi-layers of meanings. She composed a hybrid language mezangelle that combines human language and code and utilises programming terminology and syntax. She semantically overcodes the verses in such a way that multiple or parallel readings are made possible at the same time.
Women artists participate in modifications of online environments in order to expose the chauvinist tradition of Internet imagery, sci-fi literature, games or film production. A recent misbehaviour, is for example a work by Maja Smrekar which will hopefully live to see its online version. History of the Future (2012) takes us on a temporal journey through the cinematic archive of international sci-fi production, organised as a multi-media presentation of content-based clusters of representations of possible realities of the future and the present. One of the short-lived misbehaviour was noticeable also in Second Life by a female avatar Gazira Babeli who exists only in a virtual world, but created films and performances which can be exhibited in the physical world. Women artists had been creating multi-disciplinary online works, and participating in online happenings blurring the lines between on- and off-line behaviour revealing the ubiquity of digitization and the intersections of the digital and the real.
I will conclude this talk with a quote by Maja Smrekar with which she finished each decade of Sci-Fi films: “The only means left for us is theoretical violence!”