In the 1990s, a group of Australian feminist artists called VNS Matrix claimed the term “Cyberfeminism” in their pursuit for the celebration of embodiment, gender, and the body in cyberspace. Challenging the rhetoric of the 1980s and 1990s which emphasized the “data made flesh,” transcendence, and the disembodiment of the body popularized by cyberpunk novels like William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), Cyberfeminism vowed to interject the female body within these spaces to contest a male-focused technoculture. Through a series of Net.art, manifestos, and artistic interventions, they sought to theorize, recreate, and reclaim the internet and technologies as flesh spaces—spaces that emphasized the wet, fleshy, female body. In addition, taking inspiration from Donna Haraway’s “The Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s” (1985), they found within the cyborg, a symbol for the dismantling of binaries between the human and animal, human and machine, and the physical and non-physical. The cyborg figure became a political strategy for coalition rather than division which could subvert the command and control of the dominant white capitalist patriarchy.
Despite being a utopian view of cyberspace or the internet as a site of freedom from social constructs, Cyberfeminism was not without its challenges. Many theorists and critics have critiqued how the group was monolithic and was predominantly white and cisgender (Fernandez, Wilding, Wright, 2002; Wajcman, 2004). Today, the tools for critique by artists are more widespread with the advancement of and accessibility to technology as well as with the help of advocacy groups and collectives like Black Girls Code, Black Girl Tech, Deep Lab, and Women in Technology, among many others. Presently, we face a new and more inclusive technological landscape with much potential.
30 years after Cyberfeminism, today new modes of celebration of the body by artists working alongside digital technologies need to come to light. Flesh Spaces represents artists, especially those of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ groups, whose works challenge, disrupt, and dismantle the logic of the shiny, new, cool aesthetic popularized by male techno-culture and the “tech bros” of Silicon Valley. Employing a variety of techniques, such as video, GIFs, performance, or installation, they bring attention to different bodies and forms of embodiment in between digital spaces and RL places. These works continue the legacy of the Cyberfeminist movement, but simultaneously depart from them. By inviting multiple new perspectives, digital technologies are no longer tied to one dominant culture but instead offer new avenues for possibility, imagination, and renewal. It is through a coalition of multiplicities that we can rethink alternative futures for digital technologies.