Nine female artists from around the world present video works that explore women’s engagement in technology across multiple disciplines.
The video art exhibition and international discussion forum “TECHSTYLE Series 1.0: Ariadne’s Thread”, the inaugural two-part series presented by MILL6 Foundation, seeks to exchange and generate knowledge to support the changing landscape of textile today. Art Radar highlights the work of the 9 female artists in the video art exhibition.
“TECHSTYLE Series 1.0: Ariadne’s Thread”, presented by the MILL6 Foundation until 6 December 2016, is a two-part series comprised of a video art exhibition and an international discussion forum. The title “Ariadne’s Thread” refers to Greek mythology, where Ariadne, daughter of Minos, helped Theseus escape from the confines of the Minotaur’s labyrinth with a ball of thread. The Fall programme also includes an artist residency, in which Japanese artist Yukihiro Taguchi will stay in Hong Kong for three months. In this inaugural edition, the non-profit arts and cultural institution is surveying the intersection of women and technology, a vital component of the textile industry’s continued evolution.
Commenting on the exhibition, Senior Curator of MILL6 Foundation, Mizuki Takahashi said:
When I saw the old photo of female workers in Nan Fung textile factory, from their looks in dignity and pride, I immediately recognize how women have contributed to textile production and innovation for years. Their significant role should be discussed. I’m convinced we can learn much through their practice and history.
The exhibition, running from 19 November 2016 until 6 December 2016, features an international group of nine female artists, including Dara Birnbaum, Cao Fei, Tina Havelock Stevens, Vvzela Kook, Rachel Maclean, Natasha Nisic, Sputniko!, Magdalen Wong and Ji Hye Yeom. The selected works form a layered narrative that reveals the empowerment of women, their intimate relationship with technology and the connections formed through shared history and heritage.
The International Discussion Forum to be held at Asia Society Hong Kong Center on 3 December 2016 is the second part of the fall programme. The full day conference focuses on the topic of women’s commitment to technology in textiles. Four critical issues will be addressed by the panel, namely:
- Where are women’s voices in textile and technology?
- Women, textile and technology in Hong Kong and China.
- Technology and textile with responsibility.
- Towards a new horizon in textile exhibition.
Speakers in the forum include professionals from the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), the Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Goldsmiths College (London) and University of the Arts (London). Art Radar spotlights the nine female artists whose works are featured in the video art exhibition.
1. Strangers (2015) — Cao Fei
Beijing-based artist Cao Fei was born in 1978 in Guangzhou. Her films and installations are an amalgamation of social commentary, popular aesthetics, references to Surrealism and documentary conventions. They reflect on the rapid and chaotic changes that are occurring in Chinese society today. In her Strangers (2015) video installation, Cao uses an online dating platform as a space for small, performative interventions for ‘random strangers’ to watch. Users log in from around the world, and their voyeuristic gazes echo the consumerist human interaction seen in dating platforms. While individuals seem to become more and more detached from their immediate fellow citizens and surroundings, dating platforms are becoming increasingly popular. Cao’s work reflects on this trend and aims to question this phenomenon.
2. A Night with a Pink Dolphin (2015) — Ji Hye Yeom
In A Night with a Pink Dolphin (2015), Korean artist Ji Hye Yeom (b. 1982) weaves the video’s narrative through using the motif of a pink dolphin. In the video, the dolphin brings the viewers to different landscapes such as the sunset, as well as underwater. A smiling woman is seen swimming with a pink dolphin. The surrealistic captions and narrations indicate that the narrator is about to get pregnant by a pink dolphin and will conceive a living thing. Later, a pink creature with a hybrid of dolphin head and human legs emerges amongst the explosive purple and blue background. The video is interspersed with documentary scenes of dolphins in captivity, such as in aquariums and in entertainment parks.
3. Let’s Do Magic (2014) — Magdalen Wong
New York-based Hong Kong artist Magdalen Wong (b. 1981) works across the media of video, photography, sculpture, installation and drawing. She uses mundane everyday objects and images to provoke viewers to seek different narratives and unique beauty in everyday artefacts, while drawing attention to consumer culture. In Let’s Do Magic (2014), she uses quotes from advertisement and TV commercials. In the background, there are images of hallucinogenic flowers. Soft background music imitates the format of inspirational videos. The brands are juxtaposed against mundane inspirational quotes. Such contrasts are embodied by captions such as “Let’s do magic – NOS energy drink”, “You can do it. – Pac-Man cereal”, “believe in yourself… that’s the beginning… – CAT women’s footwear” and “Keep yourself healthy and mentally alert. – Ovaltine”. It is only when brands are highlighted in such a way that we notice how prevalent they are in society’s everyday existence.
4. Red Silk of Fate – Tamaki’s Crush (2016) — Sputniko!
Sputniko!, born in 1985, is an artist that lives and works in Boston and Tokyo. Of British and Japanese origins, she creates machines, robotics, music and video exploring issues surrounding technology and pop culture, and she teaches in MIT Media Lab as an Assistant Professor. The video Red Silk of Fate – Tamaki’s Crush (2016) is a project by Design Fiction Group and MIT Media Lab commissioned by the Fukutake Foundation. It is exhibited permanently at Sputniko!’s Teshima 8 Million Lab in Benesse Art Site Naoshima from 20 March 2016 onwards. Red String of Fate is an East Asian mythology in which gods tie an invisible red string between those that are destined to be together. Sputniko! has collaborated with scientists from NIAS in engineering silkworms genetically to spin this mythical ‘Red String of Fate’ by inserting genes that produce oxytocin, a social bonding ‘love’ hormone, and the genes of a red-glowing coral into silkworm eggs. The film unravels a story around the protagonist Tamaki, who engineers her own ‘Red Silk of Fate’ in hope of winning the heart of her crush.
5. I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire (2016) — Tina Havelock Stevens
Tina Havelock Stevens is a Sydney-based interdisciplinary artist. Her academic background is in film, sound, philosophy and cultural studies. Her previous works include sessions of drumming performance. In I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire (2016), the artist’s 87-year-old mother visibly ‘uses’ her superpowers. The video includes animated computer graphics to simulate what her superpowers could do. In this video still, the protagonist is seen standing on a lawn, zapping bolts of light from her arms.
6. Technology/ Transformation (1978-9) — Dara Birnbaum
Dara Birnbaum is an American video and installation artist who lives and works in New York. Born in 1946, Birbaum uses video art to challenge the mainstream television culture in the mid to late 1970s. In her video Technology/Transformation (1978-9), she subverts the gendered nature of roles on screen and injects a feminist critique in the work. The imagery of Wonder Woman is a reference to the popular television show in the 1970s. Through technology, the Wonder Woman character in the story is able to transform into multiple identities. In this deconstructive approach to the show, the illusion of female identity as a fixed entity is thus shattered.
7. Nord – Woman (2007) — Natacha Nisic
French artist Natacha Nisic, born in 1967, studied at Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs of Paris in1986-90 and at the Deutsche Film und Fernseh Akademie of Berlin in 1989-91. She explores the invisible and magical relationship between images, words, interpretation, symbol and ritual. Her work interweaves links between stories and accounts of the past and the present to reveal the complexities of the relationship between what is shown and what is hidden, the spoken and the unspoken. Her fixed and moving images function as substrata of memory – memory torn between its value as proof and its loss. They are all statements about the status of images and the possibilities of representation. In Nord – Woman (2007), Nisic explores the lives of women in a factory.
8. Feed Me (2015) — Rachel Maclean
Rachel Maclean is a multimedia artist based in Glasgow, Scotland. Born in 1987 in Edinburgh, she creates outlandish characters and fantasy worlds using film and photography to explore notions of politics, society and identity. Feed Me (2015) is a saturated and colourful film created using green screen technology. Each character is played by Maclean herself, and they are inspired by fairytales, horror films and TV talent shows. The film, produced by Film and Video Umbrella (FVU), is an exploration of the commercialisation of childhood, and a corresponding infantilism in adult behaviour. It ultimately is a critique on contemporary culture.
9. Parallel (2012) — Vvzela Kook
New media artist Vvzela Kook’s Parallel (2012) is an audio-visual work created based on the theory of ‘Multiverse’ or ‘Parallel universe’. Spider web-like patterns, accompanied by misty background sound, squeeze the audience into a confined space. The abstract void then transforms into a broader space, with clouds passing by. The colour then changes to reverse, signifying a shift to the opposite world. The work proposes the philosophical question of whether the audience is still the same person that they once were when they were staring at the black void at the beginning of the video.
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