This year marks the 20th anniversary of “The First Cyberfeminist International,” a meeting that took place at Documenta X in 1997. This month, a five-day conference at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art titled “Post-Cyberfeminist International” revisited those issues and updated them for the times, giving rise to a new movement known, appropriately enough, as post-Cyberfeminism.
So who are these post-Cyberfeminist artists and what theories are they engaging with today? To find out, we first have to know what Cyberfeminism was and how it became post-Cyberfeminism, if that is indeed where we are today. Here we offer a few notes on the history of the movement and where it’s gone in 2017.
Cyberfeminism is undefined—by definition.
The term was first coined in the early 1990s, but the source remains unclear. Most attribute the word to either Sadie Plant, director of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit at the University of Warwick, or to the VNX Matrix, an Australian artist collective that penned The Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Century in 1991. (“We are the virus of the new world disorder,” the manifesto reads, “rupturing the symbolic from within saboteurs of big daddy mainframe.”)
During The First Cyberfeminist International, the Old Boys Network—an international coalition of Cyberfeminists established in 1997 in Berlin—agreed to intentionally keep the term undefined in order to keep things as “open as possible as consensual.”
Still, some have offered their own personal definitions. “For me, Cyberfeminism was an artistic experiment of testing contemporary forms of organization,” the Berlin-based artist Cornelia Sollfrank—a founding member of the Old Boys Network—told artnet News. “It was a child of its time, inspired by all the new and yet unexplored opportunities of digital networked technologies.”
Sadie Plant wrote that Cyberfeminism describes “the work of feminists interested in theorizing, critiquing, and exploiting the Internet, cyberspace, and new-media technologies in general.”
Who are Cyberfeminists?
Donna Haraway—the theorist, feminist, and author of the 1984 book A Cyborg Manifesto—is often cited as the original inspiration for the Cyberfeminist movement. Other artists associated with it include Faith Wilding, Cornelia Sollfrank, Linda Dement, Melinda Packham, and Shu Lea Cheang, whose 1998 web project Brandon was the Guggenheim Museum’s first foray into collecting Internet-based art.