A terrain of cyberfeminism, punk, rebellious aberration and corporeal digital transgression is mapped as a rumpled unclean bedsheet. Linear timelines cannot hold or even hint at the festering yeast growth, circuit‑wired organism of Cyberfeminism. It coagulated and sparked in the reject‑outsider mutiny, trauma‑jouissance and fast‑hard beat of queer punk. It found visible existence, a name, a voice and a manifesto, through VNS Matrix in the (typical) Adelaide heat wave of 1991.
Those sweaty tendrils shoot outwards and inwards from innumerable ante, post and trans‑cedants. The bedsheet bears smears and stains from productive encounters, convergences and brush pasts. It has been endlessly folded, scrunched, wrung out and smoothed flat in spawning, leaching and adulterating across feminist time and creative persuasions.
Cyberfeminsim, as blurred edge range, entangles carnality with code; machines, blood and bad language; poetry and disdain; executables, theft and creative fabrication. It incites and follows lines of flight powered by contradiction, relatedness, transgression and misbehaviour. It simultaneously embraces logic and unreason, giving the finger to binaries as it ravishes them.
On this yellowed worn bedsheet we find:
g‑slime from VNS Matrix
Sadie Plant's cigarette ash forming minuscule zeroes and ones, alive, tumbling replicating and scattering, some stuck in the hem edges spewing their divisions onto the floor
more numbers, pink, from the COUNTess
snot, tears and spit from Virginia Barratt in productive panic
black grease from the prison lock that failed to hold Albertine Sarazin
faint blue flower Iranian tea stains from dollyoko
milk from Bataille & Laure
holes ripped by Pussy Riot
the sticky trace of gummi lollies from Angela Goh
holographic nail polish and fermenting kefir from Holly Childs
Hélène Cixous’ biro marks in anxious perfect overlapping words from which small sharp steel daggers grow outwards to pierce your heart
Claude Cahun’s careful scalpel cuts exposing an eye
Nina Hagen’s eyeliner, Diamanda Galas' eyeliner, Lydia Lunch's eyeliner
Jasmine Hirst’s eyeliner in a halo of spattered blood stains and cigarette burns
gun powder residue from the hands of Valerie Solanas
burn marks from Gabi Briggs
sweat and blood encrusted hair from Hissy Fit's head banging
Thames mud from the Slits
dog‑spider‑human‑spit mix from Donna Haraway
dog‑hair‑human‑colostrum mix from Sarah Waterson
two long dark hairs morphing into audio cables from Allucquére Rosanne Stone
Orlan’s surgically repositioned fat
blood from r e a
masking tape from Jill Scott
spilt massage oil in film sprocket shapes from Margie Medlin
blackness and weight from Debra Petrovich
an unnamed stain that doesn’t remain but lasts infinitely from Michele Barker & Anna Munster
turmeric yellow curry stains left by Frances Barrett eating in bed
the chalk outline of Ana Mendieta
copper filings and testosterone gel from Spence Messih
a rats’ nest of cables and jade green nail polish from Nancy Mauro‑Flude
desert sand from the boots of Isabelle Eberhardt
Jessie Boylan’s scrape of earth revealing a small footprint in toxic glow
day‑glo from Poly Styrene
garlic and girl cum from Shu Lea Cheang
the black ink outline of a tool to dismantle the master's house from Audre Lourde
wine and whiteboard marker from Kelly Doley
Rosi Braidotti's nomadic lines of flight that snake and undulate in fine steel cable
drops of solder & small wires vibrating in a frequency of soothing from Pia Van Gelder
sterile cell media and raw blood from Cynthia Verspaget
Shulamith Firestone’s psych drugs ground and pressed into the weave by strong tormented fingers
a hole onto infinite black nothing, rimmed with an ultra violet glow, from Laboria Cuboniks
all the holes that were there all along (and upon which every product of representation is premised), the gaps in the warp and weft of the sheet itself, from Amy Ireland
Kathy Acker’s pubic hair, soaked in the tears that mourn her
The bedsheet smells. It stinks with a living fester of gases and ferment that have evolved from the many peculiar mergings and infections. VNS Matrix can be directly flat‑pressed into Sadie Plant, pushed in a second firm fold onto Xeno‑feminism then shaken loose. The immaculate aberrations of Jean Genet can be rubbed hard along Testo Junkie and St Teresa of Avila, who in turn is joined at the hip to Francesca da Rimini | dollyoko. Dissonance and affirmative criticality wick along fibres between Rosi Braidotti and the performance events of Kelly Doley. Gentle spatters of radionics and odd science sprout the circuitry and noise of Pia Van Gelder, whose invisible energies resonate into entrainment with those of Nancy Mauro‑Flude, who in turn pulls Ada Lovelace and Anne Bonny into a séance of data flows. The virulent clarity of mad brilliant Valerie Solanas charges in arterial spurts of facts and outrage via Jasmine Hirst and Aileen Wuornos. That same clarity, filtered, drives into Hissy Fit's headbanging and further into the restrained, considered poetic fury of Gabi Briggs reclaiming her territory.
The live material intelligence permeating the bedsheet takes its shifting form in artworks and eruptions as it ceaselessly expands and decays. It will undoubtedly submerge again; pressed under by thought‑fashion trends in art, philosophy, pop‑culture, politics; but also it will perpetually distend and accrete with new forces. Cyberfeminism remains unreliable, unformed, unfinished. No end result, no list of Cyberfeminist principles nor resolution of argued contentions is possible. Clean ironed white expanses of didactic proscriptions and restrictions are forever ruined. Nothing here is clean and whole and no part of it will ever stiffen into certainty.
Linda Dement is a participating artist in the exhibition Unfinished Business: Perspectives on Art and Feminism, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 15 December 2017 – 25 March 2018.
This text is republished from the catalogue accompanying the exhibition.