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Internet Artists Bridge The Gap Between Username And Body

'Meatspace' considers the problems of having a body in the digital age.

Josie Thaddeus-Johns

Josie Thaddeus-Johns

ClaudeEigan

, 'Hold Tight To The Chambray Sky,' installation view, 2016

Now that so much of our lives take place on the internet, it can take a moment to remember that we, too, have bodies made of flesh and blood. The fingers that type our 5 AM tweets are made of brittle bone and wet sinew; the lips that mimic shocked face emoji reactions are soft stretchy sausages. We are not just online identities, living in virtual shells of our own creation—we need our physical existence to sustain ourselves. This reality can be jarring for female, queer and marginalized people who find safety online, yet are forced to deal with daily realities in multi-layered and often barely visible ways. 

Meatspace is a new show by queer feminist art collective Coven Berlin, dealing with the representation and performance of bodies offline. Borrowing its title from the cyberpunk designation for real life, as opposed to online interaction, the exhibition is on view November 12–13 and considers the various ways in which bodies entail our identities.

'Adriatica Body Art,' Photo by Sebastian Busse, 2016

“With Meatspace, we want to present a show where people can challenge their ideas of what a body is and means through the work of queer feminist artists from very different backgrounds,” Coven Berlin tells The Creators Project. “Meatspace is about how meaningful, and at the same time meaningless, the way you present yourself in space is … like when you suddenly become aware of your own breathing. In this show, we tried to understand how bodies are read in different contexts and how they work as vessels for identities. A body is not just a body, and if you can afford to believe that it is, it’s because you are part of a very small, very privileged societal group. We worry about safe spaces and people who are in danger when they perform themselves.”

Naomi Bisley, ‘Dream Girl,’ video still, 2016

For example, in Naomi Bisley’s video work Dream Girl, the protagonist invites strangers of the meatspace into a queer, female safe space, the physical world colliding with the safe anonymity often afforded by online identities. Conversely, Tabita Rezaire’s video Ass 4 Sale leverages provocative images of Miley Cyrus to comment on colonialism’s pervasive effects on health, technology, sexuality, and spirituality.

Tabita Rezaire, 'Ass 4 Sale,' video still, 2014

Shame, fear, anger, approbation: these are all emotions that black, brown, sick, queer, trans, othered bodies can evoke in others. The consequences of these feelings can be lethal, especially when they come from a member of law enforcement. As part of the exhibition, Read What You Want, a Berlin-based, LA-born arts collective and “pseudo book club,” will be hosting an open discussion on police brutality. The accompanying video is made up of footage appropriated from police body cameras and filmed by bystanders recording police violence against people of color on their phones.

“One would think body cams and smartphone footage of these situations would limit police brutality and overuse of fatal force, but it hasn't. The reality now is a state where fear and control is inflicted onto us,” Read What You Want’s GeoVanna Gonzalez says. “We have been told that we have freedom of choice and speech but when we put this freedom into practice our bodies are in danger. Does practicing your freedom mean giving up your body?”

Read What You Want, 'O V E R R E A C H,' video still, 2014

Meatspace takes place November 12–13 at The Impossible Project Lab in Berlin.

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