Hello World

Daniela & Linda Dostálková, Hannah Whitaker, Ruth Patir, Roy Efrat

May 15 - June 30, 2019

Hello world. [1]

“Only now, I find more and more women-identified women brave enough to risk sharing…without having to look away, and without distorting the enormously powerful and creative nature of that exchange.” [2]

Digital devices, techniques, and new media platforms, have enabled the creation of a newfound perspective on the subject of identity. However, so long as the mind behind computers remains human, the internet will continue to be impaired by gender stereotyping, while the recurring choice of female image demonstrates symbolic reinforcement of the true circumstances of gender division in the actual, non-virtual world. Hello

World presents a group of artists who, preoccupied with concepts of gender identity, respectively, explore and give form to their ideas in digital format. The works included in this exhibition question whether the digital realm indeed allows for the evolution of new forms of expression and the possibility for them to be present in our culture.

The exhibition tackles accepted distinctions through questions of identity. It attempts at reflecting the concept of female-gendered technology while at the same time allowing it to take on many a form, in various imagined shapes suggested by its authors, the participating artists. The current display is rooted in physical and sculptural elements, some of which are even hand-crafted, and provide the virtual, faceless female assistant with the opportunity of personalized visual expression. One might imagine the gallery space as a virtual grid or net, in which these characters are caught, and walking through the space allows for a chance meeting with the different characters and figures.

The words “Hello World” were heard from the Macintosh computer for the first time in an introductory demo presented to the public by Steve Jobs in 1984. The original voice that emerged from the computer was that of a male. Soon after, programmers learned that the female voice is more adequate and efficient for the voice system thus the decision to change the default voice, a move based on sociological and psychological studies, hence Siri’s ancestor was gendered female.

The gendering of technology is evoked in Hannah Whitaker’s new works. In her work, Whitaker often features anonymous bodies that can be read in multiple ways. In this new series, Whitaker imagines the embodied form of a digital persona, casting her as the woman in her photographs. Addressed is the consistency with which digital servants are gendered to be female, the subservience that they reinforce, and the sexualization of these personas. It questions what she would look like and how she would occupy physical space. Within the complex visual field designed by the artist, Whitaker’s envisioned figures subtly carry out human gestures as if learning a new language or practicing motor skills, all the while maintaining a playful anonymity. Hannah Whitaker shoots with a view camera onto 4×5 sheet-film. The photographs are exposed repeatedly onto the same sheet of film, and each exposure is shot through handmade screens conceived as a part of the set and go into the making of the photographs.

In Roy Efrat’s work, the viewer is confronted as well with a certain shade of anonymity. Efrat communicates Dulcinea as a symbol of unrequited love. She first appeared as Dulcinea del Toboso, the object of Don Quixote’s love for whom he relentlessly battles, though her character exceeds far and beyond the simple tale, reaching contemporary culture within which she never ceases to represent an imagined, unseen female, with whom her lover longs for an encounter in the real. One could view

Efrat’s work as if the search for Dulcinea is made seemingly possible as the windmill becomes a hybrid in the augmented reality created by the video. As the windmill stands still in an ever-changing reality, time and space are converted into fictitious and timeless elements. Nevertheless, her figure is not revealed. Here the female is also virtual, absent from the apparatus in her physical body, Dulcinea is present in her metaphysical state.

An alternative female figure is suggested in Ruth Patir’s work Faking a Smile is Easier Than Explaining Why I’m Sad, by means of a facial recognition algorithm. As the program captures the viewer’s extroverted gaze, it activates the avatar on screen in response, in a changing range of erotic dance moves, as if seeking to fulfill the viewer’s emotional needs. Patir’s use of open source designed for computer games seeks to elicit from her viewers an artificial reaction, and as a result they become a partner in the artwork. A process that highlights the tension between the forced emotional response and the viewing of an intimate occurrence.

Looking to Patir’s additional works included in the exhibition, the avatar’s history becomes apparent. Two digital screens embedded in mirrors show animated dancing artifacts of female statuettes injected with life.  Here, the use of a historical figurine rather than a contemporary one produces a cyborg hybrid. Artificial intelligence activates a figure with historical baggage associated with ancient religious tradition (the woman having been created from the image of man) and traditional perceptions of the

woman’s place in society.

The work of artist duo Daniela & Linda Dostalkova touches on the idea of a moving body inside a vehicle, a reflection of an intimate encounter within an industrial/digital environment. A contortionist in a luxury car does not respond to the illusion of autonomy rather she finds freedom in the spatial mobility within limited territory. Her physical boundaries inescapably impact and eventually determine her movement, yet her mobility inside the machine prevails. To watch her means to witness the incessant evolution of an empty gazed, gracefully programmed movement of a female body.

The eroticism made accessible by such visualizations of women figures is rooted in gender politics.  The exhibiting artists investigate labor alongside or behind the machines, their perceptions and prejudices of an assistant, a servant, a distinct female – erotically charged and at your service. The exhibition directs the viewer to see beyond the mere image, to ask what it is we are looking at, and who or what are we facing.

Curator, Adi Gura
Assistant Curator, Estee Balsam

[1]  Hello world was the first phrase typed into a computer to introduce the C++ program.

[2]  From The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power by Audre Lorde

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