Within the discreet location of the Hannah Maclure Centre, at the top of the Students’ Union of Abertay University, are the works of an accumulation of female artists. Coded After Lovelace, named after the first noted computer programmer Ada Lovelace, is a collection of artworks by female artists, reflecting upon the creative use of technology and its progression throughout history. The exhibition explores the possibilities within digital media art as a means for communication with the audience, which is a platform for active engagement with the artists’ work.
Prior to entering the space, I had acquainted myself with the notion of the woman’s role in the progression of technology, as the exhibition title pays homage to a woman who is known as the creator of the very first algorithm. I was under the assumption that there would be some form of provocation, in response to the sexualisation of women in the media that reinstates patriarchy in society. It must be agreed that there are some undertones that suggest such an idea: the small identical set of large breasted, exaggerated female nudes in the works of Lorna Mills and the repeated nude figures appearing across the dominating projection of the works of Carla Gannis. However, the predominant impression was the association with the late 20th century digital characterization and presentation of the works, and Abertay University’s very well-known video game design courses.
The journey through the exhibition forms a story that begins with Erica Sourti: the video is a deconstruction of the body, exploring the digitisation of the perception of the body that is formed through the accessibility of information through media sources. This is complimented by the work of Cornelia Sollfrank, a former tutor at Duncan of Jordanstone, comprised of prints interpreting Andy Warhol’s “Flowers”. The works harmonise with each other, developing the view that ideas never belong to a single individual; the print was not Warhol’s image. The decision to reappropriate questions the relevance of authenticity in a dualism of the image and its reproduction. Cornelia’s print draws on the accessibility of the image within digital media and the right of authorship, re-evaluating the intention of its purpose and evoking the ability to obscure perception.
In light of the digitisation of perception, and the notion of technology overthrowing our self-awareness, Carla Gannis’ projection dominates the far corner of the room. The digital photomontage takes the form of a 1990s video game, layering multiples of nude women in the centre, only to cover them up with trees. Out of the context of the previous works, you would question its role in an art exhibition. However, I think it plays homage to Lovelace, as a woman who was the pioneer for computer programming. Patriarchy within society undeniably overshadows the significance of the role of women in the discovery of new technology; the work’s playful attitude augments such ignorance.
In opposition to this is the work of Claudia Hart. The projection of what appears to be a Hellenistic sculpture made out of Plasticine is made into a piece of contemporary provocation in its erotic positioning. The soft pink colour of the figure almost reminds you of old cartoons, and the thistle wrapped around the figure is a symbol of sacrifice and admiration. The work exudes double entendre, reflecting upon the extremity of the double life that technology allows you to lead, further typified by the sculpture being projected onto a wall.
Digital culture is not for everyone; however, in the 21st century, it is inescapable. Technology encompasses everyday living in a way that has seen a dramatic shift in human necessity. This exhibition evokes a factor that many ignore, as it accredits those who have developed technology to its advances. The authorship that lies beneath these works as a collective is what really brings this exhibition together, as it demonstrates the multiplicity of your own existence outwith yourself.