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Rhizome Q&A with SVA Alumnus Faith Holland

From Rhizome: “Elizaveta Shneyderman: Your work Porn Interventions complicates the user relationship to virtual imagery. Instead of the free flow of sexualized bodies, as you describe, users are confronted with something far more critical and strange. By melding both an affective and physical understanding of bodies on the screen, the work deconstructs the trope emerging out of a construction itself. In general with your work, you notice a blip in technology’s capacity to destabilize and you render visible that network of assumptions behind it. Beyond gendered interventions of technology and technofeminist fetishization, could you speak to this interest of conflating technology with identity? Do you consider exposing the methodology of a medium an inherently feminist act?

Faith Holland: I’m part of the first generation that grew up online. I did a tremendous amount of identity building. And because technology and the web have been rapidly changing (beginning with semi-private access to AOL around 1995), I’ve done it over and over again. From carefully composed AOL profiles that maxed out available character counts and alternating capitalization (like the origin of my most enduring handle, aSuGaRHiGh) to the creation of purposefully esoteric interests and mood-defining avatars on LiveJournal, to the endless process of defining oneself on Facebook, representing myself online is a life-long project.

The identity building I started to do online coincided perfectly with the onset of puberty. The performance of gender was always an obvious element of socializing on the web, even more obvious at that time than socializing off screen. So, while I don’t think deconstructing the functionality of technology is inherently feminist (if only!), that was always and inevitably going to be part of my interpretation because it was so deeply ingrained in those early experiences. For me, it’s been really fruitful to go back and think about those experiences alongside the prevailing post-body ideologies of the early web. When I think about technology—then and now—it’s steeped in bodies: the bodies that want to know a/s/l, the bodies visualized and circulating, the bodies that are tapping and caressing in their interaction with the screen…” (For the full interview and more images, click here)

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