Despite producing art on one of the most supposedly liberal platforms to date, female cyber artists repeatedly come up against the same issue that has plagued their predecessors throughout history: namely censorship of the body. Instagram images that do not conform to the shiny, squeaky clean and hairless “ideal” body are seen as “breaking guidelines” and are swiftly removed. The internet, although hailed as an open and equal, rhizomatic structure still manages to form restrictions based on patriarchal hierarchies. The new exhibition “Virtual Normality: Women Net Artists 2.0” explores precisely these possibilities and restrictions of social media.
The exhibition, which is being held at the Museum der Bildenden Künste in Leipzig is “devoted to the female gaze in the age of digital stagings of identity”. Showcasing the work of 11 female artists of different ethnicities and ages, it seeks to explore different perspectives on identity and sexuality within the internet. The artists here follow a similar aesthetic – using pinks and neons, occupying traditionally “girly” environments such as the bedroom and using tropes associated with female beauty such as hair and the naked body.
We spoke to a selection of visitors at the exhibition to get their opinion on the art exhibited and what they feel about the current state of feminism today.
What do you think of the exhibition so far?
Bianca: I love it. I had wanted to see it for quite some time because I know Stephanie Sarley and I had also heard a lot about this book “Pics or It Didn’t Happen: Images Banned From Instagram” by Arvida Byström and Molly Soda. It’s very nice to see that people try to include digital art and try to move forward. I like that the museum is getting more modern and is working with young people.
Mark (14): I think it’s interesting because I have never seen something like this. I think it’s really strange but it’s really cool. Especially the rooms. I think a lot of young people will like the pictures because they are so modern.
Nele (18): It’s a very interesting point of view as I have never looked at social media in this way – from a critical perspective. I’ve never thought of it in that way before.
Hannah* (25): I think the whole thing about feminism is interesting because there is more than one form of feminism and this is just one of them. It’s just one side. For me, it’s not really deep enough.
Has it changed any of your perceptions about the female body?
Mark: Yes. I just had never seen something like this. In my head, I think differently about this topic now. It’s really helpful to see these images and videos.
Nele: Yep – I really like that quote there “we need an upgrade on how we view female bodies” because I think there is so much pressure today for young girls and even if you try not to feel it you still do.
Do you see images like these on your feed?
Mark: No, mine is just filled with like pictures of food and stuff so this is really new and different. It’s nothing like this.
Bianca: I follow Stephanie and I think one or two other artists like this but I haven’t seen their work in here.
Why do you think now, in 2018 we are seeing more exhibitions like this crop up?
Nele: I think because beauty standards are changing a little bit. And there are many strong female presences that are trying to change things.
How do you think exhibitions like this help advance feminism?
Bianca: I saw some young girls here – I think they came from school – which is very interesting and I think very important for young girls or people to cope with this topic at an early age. Exhibitions always get people to focus on topics and this is great.
Hannah: I think it makes feminism more visible and you know puts it public. For people that may never have thought about feminism or something it’s one way of showing it.
Nele: I think because more people can see it, it will help change things.
*Name has been changed