4th International Conference

Digital Culture & AudioVisual Challenges

Interdisciplinary Creativity in Arts and Technology

Hybrid - Corfu/Online, May 13-14, 2022

Glitches in (cyber)space: the early digital art of VNS Matrix
Date and Time: 13/05/2022 (09:00-10:20)
Marianthi Eleni Diamantopoulou

This presentation is a piece drawn from my doctorate research that partly deals with the politics of cyberculture. In my thesis, I chose to focus on cyberfeminist and critical posthumanist theories, as they emphasize on the strenuous relationship between politics, bodies, and technologies on the one hand, and resistance or civil disobedience on the other.
Cyberfeminism stubbornly resists any kind of fixed, all-inclusive definition. For the purposes of the presentation, though, one could say that it is a cultural and political phenomenon which arose during the early 90’s simultaneously (though randomly) in Australia, Canada, and the UK, and still expresses the view of some queer feminist scholars, artists, and activists worldwide.
I limit my survey on the cyberfeminism of VNS Matrix, a collective of four female artists, based in Adelaide, Australia and founded in 1991, whose early digital artworks served as a catalytic inspiration for the theoretical work of cyberfeminist Sadie Plant. In fact, VNX Matrix and Sadie Plant knew each other and at least two saved video footages depict them speaking together in public panels, during the “Seduced & Abandoned” Conferences at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (1994, 1995).

My objective here is to showcase a pre-millennial form of multimedia digital art and to highlight a pretty much forgotten form of aestheticized political activism, which took place both on- and offline. The cyberfeminist strand that I examine here, largely represented by VNS Matrix and Sadie Plant, experimented with various technologies, as much as with writing, art, bodies, and cultural resistance concurrently. Despite the limitations of their endeavors and the troublesome aspects of Plant’s political agenda, to which I will briefly refer during the first part of my presentation, I wish to show how cyberfeminists still provide precious ways of thinking and doing things today, inside and outside academia.
Finally, any feedback on the VNS Matrix artworks that I will be presenting, especially if coming from fellow researchers and lecturers in the Arts, will be of great value to me.

Part One: Theoretical analysis. Short introduction to the politics of cyberfeminism.
Part Two: Qualitative analysis. Slideshow presentation of two artworks designed, installed, distributed, and materialized by VNS Matrix collective (the material is retrieved from the collective’s website). Speakers would be preferable for this part, but not necessary. Content analysis of part of the material.
Artworks presented:
- A Cyberfeminist manifesto for the 21st Century (1991). A digital text-image that was distributed online and in other media, also printed and installed as a billboard in an Australian highway. An homage to Haraway’s cyborg manifesto, “a bodily text” in 17 lines, creatively combining digital design with feminist theoretical references, cyberpunk fiction, creative writing, and poetry.
- All New Gen (1992-1993). A multimedia installation, that led to a CD-ROM launch of an indie, avant-garde videogame. A Game Girl, directly opposing the famous Game Boy, that narrates a story of cyberfeminist subversion.

Both in cyberfeminist art and in theory-making, technologies serve an ambiguous feminist purpose, one that is yet to be fulfilled. In All New Gen, cyberspace stands as a battlefield and a playground at the same time. We may be triggered to imagine a feminist utopia, but this is yet to come. We must still fight for the end of patriarchy and gender conformity. Sadie Plant treats her theoretical works the same way. Her texts are battlefields and playgrounds of words, theories, fictions, narratives, machines and women, temporary and evolving identifications, zeros and ones.

Braidotti Rosi, Cyberfeminism with a difference, New Formations, Fall:29, 1996, pp. 9-25.
Broadhurst Dixon Joan & Cassidy Eric (ed.), Virtual futures: Cyberotics, technology and posthuman pragmatism, Routledge, 1998.
Haraway Donna, A cyborg manifesto: Science, technology, and socialist feminism in the late twentieth century, in: Donna Haraway, Simians, cyborgs and women: The reinvention of nature, Routledge, 1991, pp. 149-181.
Hester Helen, Xenofeminism, Polity Press, 2018.
Paasonen Susanna, Revisiting cyberfeminism, Communications, 36, 2011, pp. 335-352.
Plant Sadie, On the matrix: Cyberfeminist simulations, pp. 170-83 in: Rob Shields (ed.), Cultures of Internet: Virtual Spaces, Real Histories, Living Bodies, Sage, 1996, pp. 170-183.
Plant Sadie, Zeros + Ones: Digital women and the new technoculture, Fourth Estate, 1997.
Legacy Russell, Glitch feminism: A manifesto, Verso, 2020.
Wajcman Judy, Feminism confronts technology, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991.

Marianthi Eleni Diamantopoulou
I am a PhD Candidate at the School of Political Sciences of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and an H.F.R.I. Fellow. For the past three years, I have drawn on a wide range of theoretical, political, and cultural texts on sovereignty, power relations, resistance, and freedom, trying to rearticulate the questions of voluntary servitude in a contemporary context. Within this frame, I am interested in the role digital technologies play in our everyday life, more precisely its effects and affects when it comes to political resistance, and the lack thereof. I believe that many stream TV series share my concerns.

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