September 23, l997
Dear Faces: Hello again from Kassel and the Cyberfem workdays at Hybrid Workspace. This is the second report on our activities so far.
First we wanted to add a few things which we forgot to report in the first communique.
2. On Sunday evening from 11 to 1 AM, Josephine Bosma hosted the Faces radio show. Josephine had prepared several interviews with FACES members and broadcast parts of them interspersed with live commentary and intense discussion with studio guests which included Diana, Alla, Julianne,Verena, and Debra. This program will be available online from the Workspace Website.
Monday, Sept. 22:
Our public program in the afternoon started with a presentation "Diagnostic Tools for the New Millenium" by Josephine Starrs who began by showing a 10 minute film "White" (made in collaboration with Francesca di Rimini) which attempts to depict a state of madness. Josephine also distributed her "dating" questionnaire, Fuzzy Love, which is part of her online dating service Web site. "The desire for information seems to be reaching fetishistic proportions," said Josephine. She also spoke about the high states of paranoia which the new technologies are creating in people, and showed us some of the "death interfaces" on the Internet which play on these paranoias (the Net could kill you!). Her WEB work, Paranoid Poetry Generator, also addresses this issue.
.....At this point (on Tuesday morning) the Faces spent more than an hour doing stretching excercises and learning about RSI (repetitive stress injury) under the expert and gentle guidance of Josephine Bosma. She strongly counsels all of us to pay attention to what is happening to our bodies and to take action right away to change our workhabits. It was pointed out that the damaging relationship between bodies and computer work is also a political issue which should be addressed by us at another time. Thank you, Josephine, for an instructive and relaxing time-out.....
Next, it was time for the _Who is that Girl?_ quiz show. We set this up like a TV quiz show with 3 volunteer contestants from the audience and Diana (as Zelda, the Faces plant who knew the answers). Julianne acted as host, and Thorsten was the hostess who handed out the prizes. This was great fun, with many of the Faces sprinkled through the audience hooting and hollering and cheering people on. The questions proved to be extremely hard for the audience (no big surprise here, we all know that women's history is still not a topic of general knowledge)--amazingly no one could even answer the question: Who was the first woman Curator of Documenta? Our own Diana won the prize of a bottle of Cyberspace Perfume handed to her by the lovely Thorsten. The event was very lively and funny and was our best interaction with the audience to date. We also felt that it was fruitful for our own education and enlarged our general transnational knowledge bank.
The third session on Monday afternoon was Verena Kuni's talk: The future is female. The theoretical part of this talk addressed some of the "utopic myths" of the Internet, for example, that the Net gets rid of hierarchies because there is a free interchange of information across boundaries; and the myth that the Net is non-gendered because you can be anyone you want to be in cyberspace. Verena pointed out that the new emedia exist within an established social frame and are not automatically liberating. She asked: Is there really a new free space for women on the Net? and warned that the Net is a contested zone, and that this fact must be part of our awareness as we work on it. However, let us indulge in a little utopic thinking of our own and posit that feminist artists and activists could create new possibilities and interventions beyond the genderized art and institutions. What forms might such work take? Donna Haraway has suggested that the cyborg could be seen as a positive figure for women--but Verena suggests that a useful model would be that of hybridity (being a bastard and being proud of it) and that we could explore the concept of hybridity much more thoroughly- also in the sense of the "gender masquerade" discussed by Judith Butler in _Gender Trouble_, for example. Verena ended by showing us some sample women's WEB pages and looking at some of the tropes (especially that of the supersexed cyborg femme, and the 50's cartoon model from cut and paste zines "tupperware aesthetics") which appear repeatedly. You can see what she means if you look at >Cybergrrl Webstation< or >Grrl> or >Grrl Guide> or >Riot Grrl> >Grrrls> etc. As with Maggie Jahrman's talk, we began to speculate on other possibilities of images and representations. An interesting example was >Radikal Playgirls>. She also cited the work of VNS Matrix and the WomEnhouse Website. Unfortunately Verena had to leave immediately after this talk and we were not able to discuss this very interesting topic with her further.
After a short pause we began a discussion which was initiated by Susanne who briefly recalled some of the different positions taken in three texts (Josephine Bosma's "What are words worth?", Wilding and CAE's "Notes Toward a Political Condition of Cyberfeminism", and Susanne's response to these pieces) which have been part of the Faces postings and discussions on _feminism/cyberfeminism_. Although I cannot recap this whole discussion here (I got too involved to take detailed notes, but I hope to write about it more at length when I have time and distance to reflect) I offer a few points which stood out. (Please keep in mind that while I am trying to summarize and report for the whole group, my personal observations and opinions may also creep in here and what I write should not be taken to represent a group consensus). Clearly, there are strong differences between women in the group as regards their positions towards feminisms (many of these have already been voiced on the list) and of its relation to cyberfeminism. Some feel that the e-media are completely new technologies which give women a chance to start fresh and create a new language and new strategies. Many young women getting on the Net do not want to associated themselves with "old-style" feminisms or even call themselves feminists, for example, but they are more likely to relate to cyberfeminism and it could be a very useful tool for including and organizing these younger women. Others feel that the media are really not that new and that they exist in a strongly gendered social environment and perpetuate sexist codes. Thus (some of us feel) the history of feminist struggles for women's cultural and political self-representations, visibility, and power is relevant to the new communications technologies. While we want to avoid some of the terrible mistakes and blindnesses which are part of past feminist thinking, the knowledge, experience, and feminist analysis and strategies gathered thus far can be a strong help in carrying us forward now. If our goal is to empower ourselves and other women, then we must keep creating and reinterpreting our histories to encompass new conditions, new technologies, new strategies. The point is not to try to reach consensus or create definitions or limits, but to open up possibilities, create coalitions, continue the research, and figure out specific goals and strategies to reach these goals. Some of the ideas mentioned at the end of the discussion were: Creating new platforms; Education for cyberfeminists (a cyberfem handbook); Databases of skills, resources, venues, people; A letter to festivals, museums, etc. listing specific artists and speakers; A condensed history of feminisms; continued work on an activist and visible presence of cyberfeminism.
The discussion finally broke up because of violent hungerpangs and most of us went to have a good meal at a spanish restaurant. To be continued soon.....Greetings to all the Faces who are not here....