Chicago-based new media and visual artist Jennifer Chan is an appreciator of the .gif. Although I’m still fuzzy on whether the word is pronounced hard g or soft (Chan says either is acceptable), images in this format are ubiquitous on-line since their introduction in 1987. As part of the launch of studio XX’s feminist digital-art journal .dpi 28, titled Gender(ed) Cultures on the Internet, Chan curated a projection of .gifs by 25 international artists around the theme of gender.
Chan regularly explores the theme of gender and interconnection in her own work which includes remixes of videos, installations, and internet sites. “Gender belongs to everyone,” she says. “Even if you’re male or female or intersex, you’re always performing some kind of identity. We’re all a mix of both.” She creates artworks that explore the way people use technology and media to express gender and connect with others. “For me it’s about looking at how people interact on internet. My work is a commentary on how people relate to each other through the internet around the themes of art and gender. Right now, I’m interested in how young boys are looking at the camera, trying to be swaggy on-line.”
Chan also regularly explores how people using internet culture as a way to make art. “I’m interested in how people are inspired by the culture of internet and use it as a mass medium to make art. People navigate and use systems and networks to make their own work.”
By combining these two ideas, Chan put together Crazy Sexy Cool, a curated collection of .gifs from 25 international artists who work on gender. “Crazy sexy cools encapsulates the idea of niches of sexual identities and interests on the internet. They can range from hyper-masculine to queer to marginal ones. Even if we don’t relate to a sexual identity and we think of ourselves as anonymous – we’re all people behind our computers. While surfing the web, we’re all part of a network. Particular sites create a kind of group dynamic and rhetoric based on the distribution of men, women, and intersex on them. Reddit has more men. There are more women on Pinterest and it appeals to them in a certain way they like to look at things and share things.”
She points out that the role of gender on the internet goes past the appeal of particular sites. “You generate immediate responses when you appear on line as a woman or a man.” She points to how live performances, cam girls, and selfies invite responses from people. “Real world stereotypes carry over on line,” she says.
The title crazy sexy cool was inspired by the second TLC album. “I drew from early 90s pop culture, because there was an internet culture made up of lo-fi .gifs and fan pages for different girl bands.”
Chan mentions a few of the artists in particular that she thinks embody the concepts of the show. “Lorna Mills has been working with .gifs since the early 2000’s and her work involves what people would consider shocking content or niche sexuality content. Her work embodies both celebration and revolt at same time. She makes terrible things — like people punching each other into something stupid and wonderful.”
“Another artist who I really enjoy is Emilie Gervais, based in Montreal. She doesn’t always work in .gifs but is an internet artist too. She made a site called w-h-a-t-e-v-e-r.net where guys and girls submit their work as a way to show the gendered outlook on new media. She extends the late 90’s lo-fi web-design aesthetic.”
Jennifer Chan’s curated project and the launch of .dpi 28 Gender(ed) Cultures on the Internet takes place at the Royal Phoenic (5788 St. Laurent) on Dec 7. 8 p.m. $8/10