Sidsel Meineche Hansen:
LIVE LIFE WELL®
November 1 – December 8, 2019
opening: October 31, 2019
curator: Edith Jeřábková
An Interview with Sidsel Meineche Hansen
First off I’d like to ask you about the history of the topics you deal with and how they relate to the works in the exhibition.
Since 2013 I have been returning to the idea of nervousness as a form of institutional critique. The CGI animation Seroquel® (2014) deals with nervousness from a micro-political perspective. I view the feeling of nervousness as one that is socially produced in response to specific pressures to perform under capital. And I wanted to pit that feeling against the medical understanding of nervousness and anxiety, i.e. as symptoms that are individualised through the prescription of for example anti-depressants and anti-psychotic drugs. Seroquel® is the brand name of an anti-psychotic drug. The video includes found CGI material produced by the pharmaceutical industry in order to illustrate human anatomy and the treatment effect of different medical conditions, such as depression, carpal tunnel Syndrome, erectile dysfunction etc. It also contains an illustration of a lethal-injection procedure for capital punishment. So, in the found CGI footage there was this transparency in terms of showing the body from a medical perspective, and it made me think about drugs and how a prescription can put you in a direct relationship with the pharmaceutical market, capital, and the state.
The other half of the video consists of new sequences that I produced in collaboration with the 3D studio Werkflow in London. These CGI animations were deliberately more abject ascetically, and moved into the genre of body horror in order to address nervousness and depression from a more subjective and embodied perspective. The main character in Seroquel® is a readymade female avatar that we purchased on Turbosquid in order to save time on modelling and rigging. Turbosquid is a digital media company that holds the largest stock of 3D objects globally and is directed at different industries such as video games architecture, interactive training, virtual assistance, and also adult entertainment. So this digital product called 'Eva 3.0' became central to the works No Right Way 2 Cum (2015) and DICKGIRL 3D(X) (2016). I tracked the use of this specific avatar (that I was using in my own work) online and found it in one of the early VR gaming platforms for adult entertainment called Dark Dreams. Both No Right Way 2 Cum and DICKGIRL 3D(X) were ways to think through the gender binary as a commodity logic that separate gendered products and embodies genders in terms of profit. I was interested in the question of how the gender binary is recreated digitally and in virtual space, and how female forms are commodified through CGI production across various industries. It was also about debunking post-identity as a claim for online and digital existence. Avatars and how they perform identities, are not separate from the power structures that govern and subtract value from 'real' bodies.
I'm very happy that we will have your sculpture ONE-self (2015) in the exhibition, mostly because my reading of it is oxymoronic. Inasmuch as we consider your interest in our bodies as sociobodies incorporated within a capitalistic pharmacopornographic metabolism, which, with the help of digital and molecular technology in the hands of digital oligopolists, gorges itself on every aspect of every human being's experience, then ONE-self with its tautological system represents an ironic commentary. But maybe there is a different reading based on subjectivity and/or the psychotropic mind?
The title ONE-self is related to the English translation of Tiqqun, where the words ONE/THEY are capitalised in order to differentiate between persons and systems but you are right it is related to this issue with differentiating between an ‘authentic’ and produced subjectivity. After I made Seroquel®, I read Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics. It blew my mind and helped me contextualise my work in connection to what Paul B. Preciado calls the Pharmacopornographic Era. For me the sculpture ONE-self is this diagrammatic rendering of a virtual pornographic body (Eva 3.0) and the snake from the Rod of Asclepius. It’s this surreal sculpture of an intimate relationship to capitalism that has entered your self-perception and your sexuality.
Aha, now I see what’s going on. I hadn’t read the work as a person/system manifestation. When I saw your show No Right Way 2 Cum in Transmission Glasgow it was very intense. I enjoyed the VR avatar 'EVA v3.0', especially how the viewer was trapped in it, how the other visitors could analyze her/his gaze while observing the female body via VR glass. Is there a particular connection between EVA v3.0 and the second piece from that show, DICKGIRL 3D(X), which is also in the exhibition? DICKGIRL 3D(X) seems to have more agency – or is this an illusion?
It might be the soundtrack by Nkisi called Exitica, that makes you feel that way. It’s a really powerful track. In DICKGIRL 3D(X) Eva 3.0 is re-made using genitalia props that you can buy online. The characters are animated by using readymade pre-sets that algorithmically enact the choreography of mainstream porn. It is not a representation of a transwoman’s sexuality. The sex that you see is automated and the viewpoint constantly shifts back and forth between a third-person perspective and a first-person perspective in order for the viewer to inhabit the scene as both a viewer and a participant. At the same time, the blue glowing prosthetic dick that has zeros and ones running through it is a reference to Sadie Plant’s book by the same title, which acknowledges the contribution that female coders made to the development of technology.
At its core, I think No Right Way 2 Cum and DICKGIRL 3D(X) was about owning the means of digital production. Instead of critiquing gaming and porn from the outside, I was curious to enter the production of 'post-human' porn in order to try to work out my own relationship to the genre. Specifically, the prints HIS CORPORATE CUNT ART (2016) that illustrate the morph function of EVA 3.0's vagina addressed this question of ownership and gender by giving credit to the authorship of 3D artist Nikolas Detjev, who created EVA 3.0 and can sell the avatar in perpetuity. No Right Way 2 Cum was made in response to the British Board of Film Censors ban on showing female cum in UK-produced porn. So, it was also about situating the virtual avatar in relation to the legal space that governs female bodies and their expressions of pleasure and sexuality in porn.
With the launch of Libra by Facebook, it has become clear that what was still concealed during Shoshana Zubbof's research for her book Surveillance Capitalism has now become overt. The new digital market co-opted us and, as Zuboff says, we should differentiate between who we are fighting, whether this be the puppet or the puppet master, and not confuse technology and the new frontier of control and power. Your sex robot, which took the form of an anatomic dummy, seems to be addressing this. The puppet sits anthropomorphically alone, leaning against a wall, vulnerable, apathic, exhausted by stolen sex, love, art, life, labour, gender. How did this sculpture operate within your exhibition Real Doll Theatre in KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin?
At present specialised brothels are opening up across Europe that advertise sex dolls (without AI) as a more physical medium for porn. The sculpture Untitled (sex robot) (2018) is modelled after an 18th century lay figure in life size, carved in wood with mobile ball-joints and orifices, that are compatible with replaceable silicone inserts from sex robots emerging on this market. The piece is part of the exhibition Real Doll Theatre and come out of some research I did on so called ‘first-generation' sex robots that currently consist of a chatbot app and a mechanical head attached to a silicon body. The word robot (from Czech 'robota') literally means 'forced labour'. As a continuation of this colonial logic, sex robots have complex ties to the body treated as a commodity. Sex is work. The assembly line of predominantly female silicone bodies is produced for and owned largely by men. I read somewhere that sex robots and dolls introduce a shift in attitudes towards infidelity in a monogamous (human) relationship. If you have sex with an object it's masturbation: if you have sex with a person it's sex. So, sex robots seem to introduce the experience of sex outside of social relationships. In reality, sex with an artificially intelligent machine, is an economic relationship based on data harvesting by the algorithms that make the robot respond correctly to the user’s sexual behaviour.
The end-user licence agreement which is part of the software agreement that you consent to when you download the sex robot app is part of this arrangement. You cannot avoid accepting the end-user agreement and the collection of behavioural data if you want to use sex robot’s software. So rather than thinking about the sex robot as a subservient product that facilitates a sexual experience, I became interested in the idea of the sex robot as a data harvester. In a speculative reversal of roles, the emotional and sexual labour normally provided by the sex robot (for example, the girlfriend experience) is instead harvested on the users end through their interaction with an artificially intelligent sex robot. The more engaged (affectionate, violent, talkative) the user becomes, the more data is generated. Real Doll Theatre was concerned with these questions of automation, work and personal data, and attempts to relate them to the relationship between collector, artwork, commissioning institution, and artistic work.
The exhibition is supported by Danish Arts Foundation
The programme of the Center for Contemporary Arts Prague receives support from the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, Prague City Council, State Fund of Culture of the Czech Republic, City District Prague 7
Courtesy: Rodeo, London / Piraeus
Partners: Kostka stav
Media support: ArtMap, jlbjlt.net and UMA: You Make Art