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In 2004 in San Sebastian’s Arteleku production centre a symposium entitled La repolitización del espacio sexual en las prácticas artísticas contemporáneas took place. Accordingly, I would like to foster the following subtitle of this essay: The re-politicisation of technological space within contemporary art practices. Instead of thinking about the relation in-between aesthetics and politics, I propose to think about aesthetics, theory, action, art and culture thoroughly through politics, and in relation to technology.

In short, today every situated (that is, implicated, contaminated) art production and cultural initiative within the global world opens a space of collaboration, dedicated to life and resistance. The crucial point is to name this process and the new political subject. Furthermore, it is necessary to identify the ways in which this new subjectivity functions and what are the strategies implied in order to produce paradigms of resistance toward the Capital machine. Capital functions as the evacuation of spaces; it is a constant production of non-spaces.

This is why to talk about the new political subject of contemporaneity means to link it to different new spaces of battle and engagements. The relation of new forms of subjectivity towards capital is always already exerted in a social and political space that is therefore also changed by struggles-relations. All that was historically achieved in the process of establishing resistance is not something that is a result of the process of sharing, but an outcome of a constant struggle. All that was achieved through history is a process of establishing a set of strategies to subvert mechanisms of exploitation. These mechanisms today are to be identified and fought through the inclusion of new technologies, distribution of information and immaterial forms of work.

Donna Haraway’s seminal text “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,”* published for the first time in 1984, and republished and translated in numerous anthologies, is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Donna Haraway, the socialist feminist Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, USA, who was renamed a cyborg feminist, reinvented the paradigm of the cyborg for possible new articulations of new media technology potentials and for the emancipatory political, social and esthetical actions of women at the end of the previous century. The cyborg discusses new media technologies as a means for women to become emancipated from patriarchal constraints, but also from one-dimensional technology’s adorations that serve only and solely to improve the profit of large corporations. In the age that Steve Mann defined as “the age of Wearable Computers,” where technological prostheses and implements have become the most constituent part of the body, it is of crucial importance to ask how much and in which way new technology opens up a space for political and social emancipation of different class, race and gender constituted people. Haraway also proposed in her manifesto an important re-conceptualisation of reproduction processes, social positions and political views. She argued that it is crucially important for women to liberate themselves from traditional patriarchies and from the constraints of being nothing more than laboratories for reproduction. And, even more, she pressed us to see technology, gender and politics as artificial processes; for their definition and implementation we therefore have to constantly construct new political and social interpretations.

“Cyborg replication is uncoupled from organic replication,” Haraway argues. In this way she puts forward the constant need for political re-articulation of all what is considered to be just simply naturally embedded into the global world: procreation, sex, gender, technology, democracy and emancipation. The mediation of the cyborg manifesto between the human and the non-human, between discourse and materiality, gave an important kick to questions of who are the new material-semiotic actors or actants or agents in the world. Haraway’s cyborg-theory, inspired by Bruno Latour’s actor network-theory, and rebuilt further in the 1990s with Trinh T. Minh-ha’s paradigm of the inappropriate/ed other, significantly re-articulates the problematic of material-semiotic actors such as literature, language, context, gender, politics, etc. in our contemporaneity. The results are new directions and alternatives within feminism and how to connect them with new media technology that radically and differently determines action, theory, politics and subjectivity in the time of global capitalism.

Haraway argued, “The cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world,” (1984) meaning that not only gender, but theory and technology, even cyberspace is just another actor in the constantly, over and over, re-constructed physiognomy of the world. Therefore, no one and nothing can be dismissed as not important, but that everything has to be once again re-articulated as well: history, the world, outer space, technology and the political along with agents, subjects, objects, abjects and the relations between the First, Second and Third Worlds.

The paradigm of the cyborg opened a vast field of cyborg-discourses: from theory to practice, from media, computer-mediated-information technology to cyberpunk (William Gibson coined the literary term “cyberspace” in his 1984 cyberpunk novel Neuromancer to describe immersive data spaces and virtual reality), and what is of crucial importance for us, it fostered the practice and theory of cyberfeminism.

If feminism has at its base a way to organise the social (and I will add here political) world(s) by/with/out gender, it does not therefore differ only according to different theories (Marxist, Liberal, Lesbian, Postmodern, etc.), but according to different topics and practices as well (such as race and social location, women’s rights, gender roles, or political issues), then cyberfeminism is also one of its branches. What is important is that this fragmentation of feminism is not to be seen as a kind of new democratic women’s attitude (letting 1000 flowers to bloom), but it is a situated, problematic, contested reality that is constantly open for new hegemonic and political processes of interpretations and power inscriptions.

As Faith Wilding notes in her article, Where is the Feminism in Cyberfeminism? “Cyberfeminists have the chance to create new formations of feminist theory and practice which address the complex new social conditions created by global technologies.” The all-female artist and activist collective VNS Matrix (“VeNuS” Matrix) in Adelaide, Australia may have been the first to employ the term with their 1991 billboard manifesto, “A Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Century.” In the same period, in England, Sadie Plant put forward a thesis that “the social relations engendered by new technologies are to be embraced as positively feminine.” In 1994 the conference “Seduced and Abandoned: The Body in the Virtual World” organized in London theorized cyberfeminism as a derivative of Haraway’s cyborg feminism. Ten years after, the ISEA 2004 meeting in Helsinki celebrated 10 years of Cyberfeminist Theory.

Between “the beginning and the end,” numerous conferences, panels, art works, books and magazines have taken place. Among them, the Humboldt-University in Berlin organized a conference in 2002 on New Media Art, Art Theory and Cyberfeminism, and already in 1999 a conference was organised and a book published** as part of the International Festival of Computer Arts in Maribor, Slovenia. In Maribor, the activists from the group Old Boys Network (OBN) — founded in 1997 in Berlin — were invited to speak, among others participants. Distinct from Plant and VNS Matrix’s “largely uncritical embrace of new technologies” (as it is written on the WWW), for OBN, “cyberspace is understood as entirely consistent with patriarchal society”. This is why cyberfeminism, for OBN, is an undertaking committed to creating and maintaining real and virtual places for women with regards to new technologies while taking into account the age, race, class and economic differences of women all over the world.” As Rosi Braidotti articulates, the body is no longer biological, but instead the site of perpetual and multiple “inscriptions of social codes.”*** Cyberfeminism, according to Braidotti, is not about celebrating the feminine, but the breakdown and disintegration of contemporary gender boundaries. This is precisely what was already asked by Haraway’s cyborg.

One question still remains open — where are, in all these numerous historical outlines displayed on the Internet in hundreds of versions, the histories and present state of things of feminist, post-feminist and cyberfeminist processes from the Second and Third Worlds to be situated? The feminist movement in the 1970s in Belgrade and Zagreb at least shaped a process of radical and avant-garde emancipation, but cyberfeminist movements in Russia and Asia are also still waiting to be included in the official (Western and White) history of feminism and cyberfeminism, not to mention the important different perspectives of feminism and technology within African and African-American contexts. Thus, if cyberfeminism is opening up multiple inscriptions of social codes, it is time to also open itself to the multiple inscriptions of the worlds of feminism and technology, out of the First Capitalist World.

*Cf. Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991, pp.149-181.

**Cf. The Spectralization of Technology: From Elsewhere to Cyberfeminism and Back. Institutional Modes of the Cyberworld, edited by Marina Gržinić in collaboration with Adele Eisenstein (texts by Cornelia Sollfrank, Helene von Oldenburg, Claudia Reiche, Kathy Rae Huffman, Eva Ursprung, Margarete Jahrmann and Marina Gržinić) English/Slovenian, published by MKC, Maribor 1999.

*** http://www.let.ruu.nl/womens_studies/rosi/cyberfem.htm


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