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.
Card image: Linda Dement, Feminist Methodology Machine, 2016 (detail), three-channel video. Courtesy the artist.