Feminist Exhibit

Michelle Madlansacay Feb 13, 2017

Something that makes Pittsburgh so unique is its interdisciplinary culture, with the sciences, the arts, and technology all in one place. From all the public art installations throughout the city to the self driving cars that roam the streets, these are the kinds of things that really define Pittsburgh. But the most fascinating sights are the ones that combine the very different fields of science, art, and technology. A great example of that is a current art exhibit being displayed here on campus, titled Hacking/Modding/Remixing as Feminist Protest. This exhibit, presented at The Miller Gallery in The Purnell Center for Arts, will be showing until Feb. 26 and has been organized by Angela Washko, a visiting Assistant Professor in the art department of the College of Fine Arts.

Hacking/Modding/Remixing features mixed media works of various artists that communicate themes and issues raised by the feminist movement. The exhibit itself takes up about three floors in the gallery, with each floor representing one of three different takes on technological art: hacking, modding, and remixing. The first floor essentially provides a preview for the themes and artwork seen later in the exhibit. It features a little pink setup for visitors to play video games at the side of the entrance and a room showing various videos that speak to the topics of equal rights and gender roles, specifically using clips from popular films and TV shows.

The pieces on the second floor exhibited the hacking/modding aspect, where all the works focused on the concept of coding, and how it can be used as a tool for transforming the functions of common devices. For example, one of the pieces on the second floor was a short “mobile poem,” titled "Dear Sirs", that was presented on a Nintendo DS. The main idea was to have the viewer physically interact with the text, and hopefully find a hidden message within the poem. Many of the other pieces on the floor were similar, where gaming systems were incorporated to both make the art more interactive and allow guests to think about how the digital world can influence people’s behavior.

The third floor was centered around the technique of remixing, where the artists utilized existing songs, videos and pictures to communicate messages about politics, women’s rights, and the female body. All the graphics and various forms of media being displayed throughout this floor definitely made all the pieces very eye-catching. All three floors of Hacking/Modding/Remixing as Feminist Protest had a lot of information to share and powerful themes to express with visitors, but the exhibit didn’t just end there. On Friday February 10th, there was a special extended event to the exhibit at The Andy Warhol Museum. The event included a presentation of multiple abstract videos, all focused on the same topics addressed in The Miller Gallery exhibit. There was a live performance by video and performance artist, Ann Hirsch, in which she taught the audience "How to Get on Reality TV", and referred to her own experiences, having been on VH1’s reality TV show Frank the Entertainer...In a Basement Affair. All the content in this event addressed the many issues associated with women’s rights, sexuality, and how they are viewed in society. The videos explicitly presented the major influence social media has on the portrayal of women in popular culture today, and without a doubt helped the audience see all these effects from the perspectives of the female artists featured in the event.

The entire Hacking/Modding/Remixing as Feminist Protest exhibit really makes its guests think. Guests can learn more about the hidden meanings behind various forms of entertainment, and how they contribute to shaping gender roles in society. It can also allow guests to open their eyes to new perspectives, and even emotionally experience issues regarding discrimination and violations of equal rights, that so many people have dealt with, and continue to deal with today. It’s a sight that is truly inspiring and certainly worth visiting.

The artists featured in The Miller Gallery exhibit were Addie Wagenknecht (Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry Fellow 2014), Anne-Marie Schleiner, Annina Rüst, Cat Mazza (CMU Alumna, SoArt 1999), Channel Two, Dara Birnbaum (CMU Alumna, SoArch 1969), Elisa Kreisinger, Kathy High, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Mary Flanagan, micha cárdenas, Morehshin Allahyari, Myfanwy Ashmore, Olia Lialina, Rachel Rampleman, Rachel Simone Weil, RAFiA Santana, Skawennati, Soda Jerk and VNS Matrix, Sondra Perry, and Suzie Silver (CMU Professor of Art).