Disturbed, Hacked, Reassembled
Issue 1

Disturbed, Hacked, Reassembled is the latest exhibition by two students from
the RCA’s Curating Contemporary Art Course, DRIVE-THRU is a curatorial
collective founded by Olivia Aherne & Helen Barr.

The exhibition curated by DRIVE-THRU presents new and pre-existing works
by three artists; Lisa Carletta, Suzannah Pettigrew, Tabita Rezaire and an artist
collective, Keiken. The exhibition spans moving image, virtual reality, animation and video installation to understand how the body is being experienced in new ways digitally and virtually.

How was DRIVE-THRU formed?
DRIVE-THRU started after a series of conversations between the two of us, we met on the RCA Curating Contemporary Art course and realised that we share very similar ideas in relation to art, technology and curatorial practice. Practising without a permanent physical space, we function both on and offline with a focus on innovative and experimental modes of exhibition. With reference to the fast, 24-hour access and
open-to- all model of the ‘drive-thru’, our curatorial practice focuses on collaboration, democratic exhibition making and open access to knowledge.
This is DRIVE-THRU’s first exhibition in London, prior to this you worked with
the online platform ‘isthisit?’ to create out_of_body. How did your first project
help to inform the structure of Disturbed, Hacked, Reassembled?

out_of_body and Disturbed, Hacked, Reassembled developed out of a research piece that one of us was writing that looked at the way artists were responding to the body online and in virtual spaces. Whilst we become increasingly fascinated by the post human and digital bodies, it is important to assess whether these new technologies and online spaces are helpful for our understanding of gender, or whether they just mirror more traditional concepts of masculinity and femininity, subject and object. We need to recognise where these digital bodies are being employed and how these online spaces change our perception of the body, its substance and borders and our attitudes towards it. For out_of_body, the online exhibition that we curated on isthisitisthisit.com, we posted an open call online in an attempt to extend beyond our own networks and reach artists in other spaces around the world. Whilst we didn’t hold an open call for Disturbed, Hacked, Reassembled, it was really important to us to present a group of artists from different backgrounds with diverse perspectives. Both exhibitions act as
sites of knowledge production, opening up spaces where we can question social
constructs such as gender, race and sexuality through a digital lens. In terms of the structuring and curatorial thinking for Disturbed, Hacked, Reassembled, we focussed on creating new dialogues between previously unconnected works, for example digital healing in Tabita Rezaire’s work is echoed in Lisa Carletta’s utopian exploration of restoring the self through the digital. We have put together a programme of discussions and workshops, which more specifically open up questions provoked by the exhibition. The different crossovers in the work and the programme create spaces for reflection and consideration, the exhibition space becomes a productive place where knowledge is negotiated and produced and attempts to resist reduction to image.

The exhibition has a focus on how feminism and the female body exist on
digital and virtual platforms; however, the work of Tabita Rezaire also questions ideas of race and discrimination. With this in mind, how does the work on show produce a wider dialogue interested in the possibilities of the body and its relationship to digital data and virtualisation?

We don’t want to simplify the works by categorising them into one wider dialogue, all of the works on show are exploring the digital body and technology’s relationship to the body but they are also very diverse in their specificity. Feminist perspectives, racial politics, sexuality and representation are all referenced in the show. Rezaire’s
work ‘Sugarwalls Teardom’ commemorates ‘herstory’ by exploring the contributions of black women’s wombs to the advancement of modern medical science and technology. The video work celebrates womb technology through an account of coercive anatomic politics. Rezaire asks, whose body is exploitable? By who? For who? Suzannah Pettigrew’s work also looks back in time at the female body, specifically female icons and powerful women. Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra and imagery of Elizabeth I feature in a narrative about the fragility of social currency and how our conditioning about hierarchy starts at the early stages of education. She explores how this impacts and continues to seep into contemporary culture alongside
the agency of the female image in our current digital condition. Keiken’s VR, video and sound installation traces the birth of the digital, a giant networked space fused with human interaction and technology, it looks at animism and the attribution of human qualities to non-living objects and explores a world of fusions between human and machine. Finally, Carletta’s work presents the human as machine, the avata herself. By 3D scanning her own body the artist explores her true digital self and traces the psychological journey from the physical to the digital.

Keeping in mind these ideas of a new perspective of the physical body, what
are the issues with the portrayal of the female body and how it is and discriminated against in a digital/virtual environment? Whilst the digital creates networked and online spaces where digital selves can be, individually and collectively, sometimes unbound by IRL gender binaries and pressures to conform or identify, they also replicate social constructs, gender difference and objectify bodies, even as digitized vessels. Whilst it can be viewed as
a space of possibility and one that can heal digitally, it also has the potential to
homogenise and create oppressive hierarchies perpetuated by the internet.

Regarding future projects and collaborators, what kinds of ideas and contexts are you looking to work with?
We’re interested in exploring different sites for exhibition making including apps,
hackpad spaces or live feeds. We will be continuing our interviews.doc series, which takes place on Google docs, and then is saved as a space for learning and future knowledge production. We’re also hoping to hold some one off events in the new year, details will be on our website soon.



          Thomas Ellmer

Layout design by Francisco Casaroti,  Angelo Stitz, &  Maria Teixeira