Walker Art Center

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Towards a New Digital Landscape
Representation, Erasure, and the Future of Digital Art

“We have no new masters because digital technology is more than an invention, tool, or genre,” wrote Jerry Saltz recently in his review of the New Museum Triennial. “It is a whole new landscape, a new biology, one that is changing us as much as we are changing it—and could one day live on the moon or inside us. Either way, we are digital’s bitches.”

Saltz, whose infamous and art historically raunchy Facebook posts have gotten him temporarily banned from the site, has an amazing point. In 2015, if we’re being truly honest with ourselves, we all exist as digital’s bitches. We spend our days with our hands all over devices that we have no idea how to construct, refashion, or repair. In small ways we’re all trying to come to terms with the future of the digital world, but at this moment, due to a severe lack of equity in the tech world, we’re at a stalemate.

In this context, “we” is a very generous descriptor for those existing on the margins of the Internet. Every year the public gets a report from Forbes or some other big tech blog on the dismal representation of women and people of color employed by tech companies. Most recently, Vice’s Motherboard declared that we are in “The Year of the Table Flip (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻,” decrying that it’s time for a new brand of tech activism. This article, though cis-white-female–centric, encourages those on the margins of tech to take to the web to give voice to their injustices in public forums.

Of course, the art world isn’t immune to any of this. In the Hyperallergic piece “Where Are the Women of Color in New Media Art?,” several women artists take organizations like the cyberfeminist collective Deep Lab to task. Some of the most powerful language in the article referred to a lack of access to resources and exposure—as well as issues about erasure, agency, ownership, and the Digital Divide. As Morehshin Allahyari, a new media and digital artist, educator, and curator, put it: “I have struggled, feeling isolated in the new media art scene, being frustrated with the white and specifically Western topics, exhibitions, articles, panels, etc., that also happen to always be the bubble of the same 30 artists. Rarely are new or unknown faces or artists being introduced or brought into these communities. Even when it comes down to feminist issues and events focused on women, WOC are mostly excluded. Their bodies, concerns, daily life struggle are rarely taken seriously or included in a lot of these events and publications.”

Since starting Black Contemporary Art in 2011, I’ve avoided publicly theorizing about artists and art history, instead opting for presenting artists and writing that already exists in the world. Here, I’m (mostly) staying true to that mission by highlighting artists from around the world as they want to be presented. To return to Saltz’s point, as we embark on the new landscape, it’s imperative that we labor to create a new biology that is as diverse and equitable as possible. I hope their words help spark conversations about representation, erasure, and the future of digital art.

In closing I’d like to thank Paul Schmelzer and the Walker Art Center for this opportunity, and to acknowledge Elizabeth Mputu, Jacolby Satterwhite, DJ /Rupture, Adrian Piper, Lorraine O’Grady, Pope.L, Yung Jake, Mendi+Keith Obadike, Tabita Rezaire, Kenya Johnson, Kenya (Robinson), Ronald Wimberly, and so many other artists fighting the digital fight.

Kimberly Drew received her BA from Smith College in Art History and African-American Studies, with a concentration in Museum Studies. An avid lover of Black culture and art, Kimberly first experienced the art world as an intern in the Director’s Office of the Studio Museum in Harlem. Her time at the Studio Museum inspired her to start the Tumblr blog Black Contemporary Art, sparking her interest in social media. Find her on Twitter at @museummammy and @blackcontempart.

Presented as part of

Julianne Aguilar

A/S/L (age, gender pronoun, location): 28, female, Albuquerque
Website: julianneaguilar.com
Relevant Handles: @julianneaguilar (Twitter), @CholulaBankhead (Instagram)

Describe your artwork.

I make work that explores foreverness, the objectification of non-physical technologies, and the hope that our computers and networks will outlive us.

What was your first experience on the Internet?

AOL in the ’90s! I was maybe 10 years old. I quickly became the computer expert in my house. I taught myself HTML and made my first websites with Expage.com, which was so old-school you couldn’t upload your own images. I consider these websites my first works of art, amateurish aesthetic disasters of early Internet web design though they were.

How do you define yourself as a digital citizen?

I define myself by how I contribute to the Internet. The Internet is a vast but vulnerable archive of anything and everything, and I want to add as much as I can in the time that I have. This really stems from the hope that we as a people can achieve immortality through our technology.

Anything else you think the world should know?

I make Internet-specific work because adding to the Internet represents an opportunity to reach an immediate global audience, but also because there is something special about the off-the-cuff ideas the Internet is capable of preserving. Those off-the-cuff ideas are homepages, manifestos, artworks—obscure to everyone but the creator who took the time to make it and upload it. I must assume that anything I add to the Internet might never be seen by anyone. That’s part of the anarchic and ephemeral quality of the Internet. It’s a fragile sort of permanence. A painting can burn but leave ashes. A website can disappear without any trace.

Pictured: Julianne Aguilar, Young, 2015

Hannah Black

A/S/L: 30, she/her, right now this minute I’m in Brooklyn
Website: hannahfb.tumblr.com
Relevant Handles: @nanpansky

Describe your artwork.

I let pop music (especially the music of the Black diaspora), fragments of something called “political theory,” and the stories of various important women like Whitney Houston, Rihanna, Angelina Jolie, and the abstract figure of the mother flow through me and into video editing software in order to work out, among other things, how it is possible that so many intense and even beautiful expressions of desire/joy/anger/etc. have survived the terrible history of capitalism. I also write a lot. The videos and my writing don’t have any proposals about how to go on, but they are ways to work through the questions I have about that.

What was your first experience on the internet?

Can’t remember the very first, but as kids Jesse Darling and I used to go on chat rooms using the family PC in the living room of their parents’ house and torment strangers. I also remember being told what Google was, around 2003.

How do you define yourself as a digital citizen?

I do not define myself as a digital citizen!

Anything else you think the world should know?

My Tinder bio is currently “FTP, 420, teleportation will revolutionize the hookup.”

Pictured: Hannah Black, My Bodies (video still), 2014

Gaby Cepeda

A/S/L:/ 29, girl/she, Lima, Perú (born in México)
Website: gabycf.com
Relevant Handles: @gabycepeda (Twitter, Instagram)

Describe your artwork.

I’m an independent curator and artist. In both of my practices I work on the intersection of feminism and the Internet. I’m also interested in the plasticity of identities in the digital realm and how our experiences—both URL & IRL—are still very determined by our bodies.

What was your first experience on the Internet?

I remember I got a dial-up connection when I lived Mexico. I was 11 and the first thing I did was search “Spice Girls” on Altavista. Soon after, I got a GeoCities website, and a LiveJournal after that. I learned a lot about art from LiveJournal during my teens.

How do you define yourself as a digital citizen?

Though I’ve been a digital citizen since my tweens, it still feels like the Internet is distant. It’s a sentiment I also feel about “the real art-world,” like the reality of it still resides in America and Europe. I have hopes that with the closing of the digital divide a bigger diversity of experiences will continue to flourish online—and with them great digital artists from different geographies. I guess I’m a latinoamérica-inhabiting digital citizen.

Anything else you think the world should know?

More of a question: how long do you think it’ll be before we stop calling it “the Internet”? Like, when it’s all stored in our glasses/watches and then our brains? Is singularity nigh? Will brown people be included?

Pictured: Gabby Cepeda, Girls of the Internet Museum (screenshot)

Jennifer Chan

A/S/L: 26, she, Chicago
Website: jennifer-chan.com
Relevant Handles: @jenninat0r

Describe your artwork.

Video and new media: gifs, installation, webpages, remix, and, recently, a fake dance party.

How do you define yourself as a digital citizen?

It’s not politically impactful, but I suppose contributing to restaurant reviews on Yelp is a good starting point. I’m not sure how to answer this question, actually. I suppose every user ought to carry out “civic” responsibilities online, but anonymity and the disinhibition effect of online platforms makes people forget that they should stand up for other people who face online harassment or misogyny. Several years back I self-published and also guest-blogged incendiary art criticism, but I’m less interested in that now because academic language can be inaccessible and I’m tired of arguing online. So I organize Dorkbot Chicago (a series of monthly free art and tech talks) and volunteer TA for Girl Develop It, a female-oriented code-literacy initiative. I’m more satisfied giving people the context to talk about their work informally instead of curating or writing. I don’t think I’m optimistic about the Internet starting revolutions unless people really meet IRL, but it certainly helps with creating awareness about feminist issues.


Here are some recent attempts at being recklessly radical: my Art Bro Flowchart (discussed recently at Rhizome) and Body Anxiety, curated with Leah Schrager.

Pictured: Jennifer Chan, Installation view of REALCORE, 2012

Danielle Dean

A/S/L: 32, female, New York/Houston/Los Angeles
Website: danielledean.info
Relevant Handles: @danielleadean (Instagram); danielle-dean.tumblr.com

Describe your artwork.

I think about the possibilities and restrictions in assemblage and abstractions that accelerate through networks; framing our mindscape, relations with people, objects and contributing to capital accumulation; the colonization of the mind. Techno-scientific marketing, hybrid combinations of language, images, semiotics, affects that effect gestures, speech, action. Creating both at the same time: extreme difference and sameness—but decentering ties to essentialisms. Difference—e.g. between my sister from Houston, TX, and me from London, UK; blood, the Internet, television, music; interpolating our differences, opportunities and desires. I make videos with my friends, family and Craigslist actors using assemblage scripts, images, affects, and things drawn from the apparatus of commercial production and representation. I try to frame how this apparatus interpellates us into “having” (today’s “being”); reusing and re-mixing its possibilities for de-essentializing and creating new subjectivities.

What was your first experience on the Internet?

When I used it to locate my estranged dad. I grew up with my English mother in a small working-class town just outside of London. We did not have much money so it took us a while to get the Internet at home, but when we first got it combined with the TV subscription I decided to search for him, using an Internet search engine—which I think was Yahoo at the time. I put my dad’s surname into the search engine: “Agwunobi.” We had no idea where he was—perhaps back in Nigeria? The results of the search kept showing the same face of a young man, John O. Agwunobi. It showed he was the Secretary of Health of the US, working in the White House when George W. Bush was in power. I thought it must have been just a coincidence—having the same name. It could not be possible, from our small public-funded living-room, that this man could be related to me. My mom caught a glimpse of his face on the computer scree. She said I looked like him and that maybe he was my cousin. So I used the Internet to find out how to contact him at the White House. His secretary replied, asking me to send in a copy of my birth certificate. This verified he was my cousin, and subsequently my Internet search turned into a real search: John in person helped me track my father down to Houston, Texas, where I found I also had a half-sister I’d never met before.

Pictured: Danielle Dean, 3 Trainers (Video Still), 2014

Hamishi Farah

A/S/L: 24, male, Melbourne
Website: hamishi.asia
Relevant Handles: @hamishis (Twitter), @yunggallery (Instagram)

Describe your artwork.

I’m into statelessness, especially as first-generation Somali-Australian. I’m interested in where a desire for “meaning” in art comes from. I’ve been thinking about the colonial framework of Western culture, not so much as in the sense of “you took our land, you screwed us up,” but rather an attitude or sensibility that underpins its dominance. People talk about English being a bastardized language, which I take as this jovial way of communicating that English was open-source, in the sense that it grew by absorbing other languages through war, colonization, exploration, etc. Maybe this notion isn’t exclusive to English as a language but can be extended to an ideology of the “Global West,” a meme, a form defined by its malleability and cooptation of its influences and sources. Like Tumblr, “curating your world,” or Goku’s spirit bomb in Dragonball Z, power is gathered by amalgamating life and subsequently centralizing and attributing it to a single form. The authorship being attributed to culture-as-umbrella allows it to become a signifier for all it has consumed, aggregating its diverse makeup to a single form of universality or objective truth. Who wouldn’t want their reality to be affirmed as the “true reality,” which is easy when you are a part of Western hegemony, as everything is constantly reaffirming your truth? Art can be reflexive to this, “the rules as the sublime.” Maybe this is why there is an obsession and meaning ascribed to the exotic, because this type of “meaning” can be characterized by its position as a thing outside of the pursuer’s knowledge, outside of the rules. Subsequent cannibalization of this “meaning” results in a perceived foreignness becoming amalgamated into the regulated “known,” as once the perceived meaning has been wholly consumed, navigated, or mastered it becomes a reflection of the consumer, navigator, or master resulting in the complete evaporation of a liquidity of meaning. Like comfort eating or something.

A lot of my practice is figuring out how to resist being colonized while stealing that ideology to become the colonizer myself. To deal with this, I become less interested in “representation” or “illustration” and more interested in the action or gesture that underpins what I am illustrating or representing. These actions can’t really be objectified or universalized because the implications are constantly shifting. I think this process of colonization is my way of thinking about both exoticism and trends. I am implicated in colonialism, in capital, I wouldn’t of been born if it wasn’t for colonialism, and I want to foreground my implication rather than hiding it in aspiring to a falsehood of righteousness. Maybe this is why I make paintings, because they are so implicated or unclean.

Peaceful protest is just constructive criticism for hegemony. I think about what proceeds from the failure of institutional critique, self awareness, cop-out, and hierarchical reaffirmations of acknowledging privilege, accelerationism, and how they interact with acknowledgement of implication. “Yeah, the government is spying on us. Who cares?” Instead of being underscored by guilt or apathy, maybe it could be nice if the self-reflection in understanding your moral, environmental, ideological implication in dominance was a place to proceed from instead of conceal. In understanding my implication I would like my work to occupy an oxymoronic position. Positioning the work within the issue to examine or laugh at or cope with the oxymorons that underpin structural dominance. Perhaps the pattern on the reverse of a democratic playing card is the appeal to “fairness” or “egalitarianism”—the self-delusion that the world is fair and anyone can win. This notion of fairness posits ourselves outside of nature’s brutality. But fairness and merit enable the striving and participation required to feed and sustain a brutality of dominance, no different to the dominance that can be seen in ecosystems. This is an example of an ecological/ideological oxymoron, but even the conflation of politics and ecology produces these types of paradox as ecology is subservient to the structures and interests that enable it. I believe that the ouroboros nature of this is where the poetics of inconclusion can live.

What was your first experience on the Internet?

I remember getting online when I was young but a little older than most of the people around me, 12 years old or something. I used to post on NBA discussion forums and make these emotional desktop wallpapers of NBA players for people to download (I remember one of my first paid jobs was making a wallpaper for NBA.com when I was 14). I was pretty isolated growing up. I was an odd and angry kid, constantly being suspended and expelled from schools. Other kids avoided me. Being welcomed and appreciated in a community online wasn’t only my first earnest experience online but the first time I felt really part of something. I could recognize it as real/tangible experience rather than being underscored by the “digital.” It made a huge impression on me in a time where a lot of people didn’t really get the Internet. Governments always referred to it as this bizarre, scary realm, but it was just people, albeit deregulated and collectivized. This made me realize that there isn’t really a divide between reality and online. Maybe that’s the first experience of the Internet: that moment it stops being “the Internet” and just becomes another thing/part of living.

Angelina Fernandez

A/S/L: 24, she/her, Mexico City
Relevant Handles: @angfdz
Website: cargocollective.com/angfdz

Describe your artwork.

My work attempts to synthesize my experiences as a bicultural (Mexican/American) woman, often relying on very personal narratives to create collages and illustrations. I am constantly trying to understand my place in the world and navigate a confusing and often fractured identity. My collages contain my heartbreak, my happiness, my anger… they help me put my uneasy subconscious to rest.

The Internet has changed the way we make and consume art. I work the way the online creative community does. Reuse, recycle, cannibalize, edit, play. I use Google-image search and stock photos, making subconscious choices on color form and content. My work mirrors my internal life, much in the way the user-created content of the Internet mirrors the internal life of our society. My work is me. Everything I am and everything I’m not.

How do you define yourself as a digital citizen?

Just one among many others. If I’ve learned anything from being a part of more than a few Internet communities is that they function much the same way that real-life communities work. There’s gossip, haters, cliques, friendships, and even love. People are people in whatever format they choose to take.

Pictured: Angelina Fernandez, rude boy (skit), 2014

Yulan Grant

A/S/L: [redacted], she/her, Jamaican born, New York based
Website: yulangrant.tumblr.com
Relevant Handles: @yu_who

Describe your artwork.

Within all of my work I aim to create a space in which dialogue can occur. My life revolves around male-centered environments, so I tend to disrupt this while navigating this everyday existence. My practice stems from a need to pull things apart within myself; a way to recontextualize knowledge and disseminate thought on my own terms. It’s within this environment that the intersection of Black x woman x queer collide.
I operate within a certain amorphous blob in regards to my work, whether it be in video, curating or DJing. It’s not always obvious at first, but within that amorphous being, definitions of femininity are being expounded upon, shattering and collapsing onto each other. The topics I traverse are reflections of myself as well as society on a whole. They influence and interact with each other. The former doesn’t exist without the latter, and it’s the space in between these environments that a new language can begin to bubble.

What was your first experience on the Internet?

I remember the first time we got the Internet back in Jamaica, we were excited, to say the least, about our little 56k modem. It’s relatively vague, but the first thing I looked for was a search engine, and then Napster, so I could finally download an Aaliyah album. It took a week, many a missed phone calls, and getting bumped off the connection, but it was an amazing sense of accomplishment.

Pictured: Yulan Grant, Database (screenshot), ongoing

Shawné Michaelain Holloway

A/S/L: 23, gURL, Paris, France
Website: shawnemichaelainholloway.com
Relevant Handles: @cleogirl2525

Describe your artwork.

Everything that I’ve made is one singular artwork—each piece contributes to a stream of digital artifacts (films, status updates, music, publications, etc.) that, all together, carefully detail/describe one Black gURL’s #identity + xxxperience of sex and pop culture online. It’s intentionally nonlinear, but it is aesthetically cohesive and packed with small gestures that provide continuity across projects and mediums.

What was your first experience on the Internet?

TeenOpenDiary.com (TOD): I really believe the foundations of my understanding of the world were developed through that website. I was alone a lot as a kid, and being an only child, I was curious, so I constantly keep myself occupied by learning things. I discovered HTML because of that website. I discovered erotica there too, but, perhaps most importantly, I learned how to develop and communicate my ideas and personality online as a result of their hybrid archive-diary/forum format they used. I learned about what it felt like to live in public as a meticulously constructed identity at an early age and just never stopped.

E. Jane

A/S/L: 24, they (usually)/her, Philadelphia
Website: e-jane.net
Relevant Handles: @E_SCRAAATCH (Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud)

Describe your artwork.

I use images, video, performance, and sound to articulate ideas and engage with systems related to buying, selling, and advertising products online. I’ve been studying how subjugated bodies navigate the media, notions of individualism and net culture. I buy ad space on Facebook and make print-on-demand design objects (based on a YouTube series I created) through the company Print All Over Me, in order to engage with and analyze new entrepreneurial and advertising practices created for the Internet. I also make realities. I’m interested in how truth is less about what “is” in a moral sense than about what we see, thanks to the culture we’ve created online.

How do you define yourself as a digital citizen?

That’s a good question. I spend a lot of time thinking about how others define themselves online—how we have been taught to define our public selves, our “brand,” so that the ads we see get more specific to who we “really are,” or so that the “right” people find us. I guess in that sense I define myself as a Black artist/content producer and an Aesthlete, to use Brad Troemel’s term. I have a compulsion to produce a certain amount of content for online audiences and to engage with the content my fellow artists produce, be it writing, music, images, websites, etc.

Isaac Kariuki

A/S/: 22, cis he/him, London and Nairobi
Website: isaackariuki.com, diasporadrama.com
Relevant Handles: @isaac_pdf (Twitter), nokiabae (Tumblr)

Describe your artwork.

My work revolves around Internet culture and tech culture as it pertains to marginalized identities. The interaction between technology/the digital world with Black people, and especially Kenyans, has always been a big interest of mine and a driving force in my work. My SIM Card series explored the cell phone rush in Kenya: we kind of missed the PC boom, and cell phones really changed a lot, even in popular culture. The leading mobile network created a monopoly, and it reflects so much of the autocracy still present in Kenya.

What was your first experience on the Internet?

I was about 11 or 12; we got the only Internet service in Kenya, and we could only use it from 7 to 11 am. The only things me and my brother did was print lyrics of our favorite songs to sing later. The Internet wasn’t really a hobby for me until I went on Mariah Carey’s website, which had all these games and quizzes. From that point on I was addicted.

Pictured: Isaac Kariuki, SIM Card Project, ongoing

Devin K. Kenny

A/S/L: 28, Male, New York
Relevant Handles: @devinkkenny, Wieder Care, Devin KKenny (Soundcloud, Bandcamp)

Describe your artwork.

Multifarious, yet about that life.

How do you define yourself as a digital citizen?

As a citizen, I’m subject to the laws of a particular nation and should also receive certain rights. Those rights, to those who can’t access them, could be seen as benefits. I’m still subject to laws of the United States (the nation for whom I’m a citizen), and those laws impact my physical presence as well as my digital presence. There’s a mythology of the Internet as being a place where you could infinitely reproduce and recreate oneself, but we have to keep in mind that this is a recreation through mediation, often one that can be traced back to one Internet Protocol address, and therefore one personage.

Otherwise, when on social networks I try to live candidly and generously as best I can, but the speed makes me quick to quips, too, though I don’t always share them. I’ve had a lot of people come up to me on the street after not seeing them for years and thank me for the content I share through Facebook or on my Tumblr, so I guess I’m doing some kind of service to a community of sorts. I do want to put out work that either makes me happy to be alive or that brings up challenges that I hope can be discussed, addressed, and acted upon by my friends, peers, acquaintances, and sometimes colleagues. I had a lot of formative experiences online so I still hold onto the possibility of it as a positively transformative terrain.

Anything else you think the world should know?**

1. Many Republicans are against net neutrality.
2. R&B powerhouse 702 was not named after section 702 of the PATRIOT Act, but that section does allow for government surveillance on citizens without suspicion, even after Section 215 expires in June.
3. Many of the best computers are powered by shameless plugs.
4. Most Internet traffic is produced by bots, not humans.
5. Trolling is helping to further stunt our democracy.

Pictured: Devin Kenny, Worksheet, 2014

Jayson Musson

A/S/L: 37, male, New York City
Website: jaysonmusson.com, gojamelgo.com
Relevant Handles: PackofRats, Henrock Allah, Mitt Romney’s Drug Dealer, My Old Gul Calling Me Tha Grinch

Describe your artwork.

My work often employs humor to explore historical trauma and those forces which have shaped our present moment. Sometimes this occurs through the production of objects, sometimes through video and performance.

How do you define yourself as a digital citizen?

If “digital citizens” means “I use my phone and laptop to mediate most life experiences,” then, yes, I am a digital citizen. Jokes aside, I’ve long had very asocial tendencies, and though there is a valid claim to the Internet fostering community, it also fosters a certain form of interconnected isolation. Picture Billy Baldwin sitting in a dark room illuminated by the light of all those surveillance monitors he would watch in the movie Sliver. That’s me monitoring my awful social media feed.

Pictured: Jayson Musson, Shelter, 2015

Sondra Perry

A/S/L: 28, face without mouth emoji, Harlem, New York
Website:  sondraperry.com, mothermothermother.org
Relevant Handles: @sondraperry01 (Twitter, Instagram)

Describe your artwork.

I make videos about the spatial relations of people, places, and objects. I make them with family, friends, and myself; we participate in a variety of actions. Together, as an assembled apparatus with many individual parts, we perform in the spaces where video production takes place.

I make performances that illustrate the spatial relations of people, places, and objects. I make these performances with family, friends, and myself; we participate in a variety of actions. Together, as an assembled apparatus with many individual parts we become a stage and perform.

Sometimes I make performances in places I create through the placement of objects in specific spaces called installations. I like to make objects that I sometimes call sculptures and put them in the spaces I call installations. Sometimes I make the objects out of things like wood or plastic or fabric, and sometimes I have them made by companies I find on the Internet; they then send the things I’ve asked them to make to my studio, and then I put those objects into installations.

I make websites, and when I say make websites I mean, I use templates created by companies that make websites and input my content into them. I’m learning how to make websites now, and it’s fun. I do this because I want to expand my digital literacy and discover how interfaces work. You know, learning the master’s tools and whatnot.

How do you define yourself as a digital citizen?

I’m a lucky guy. I’m happy I go to a school that has free wifi. I’m thankful for all the communities I’ve been able to participate in and be accountable to because of this connectivity. I like the autonomy of having my work on the Internet and the accessibility it has given folks who want to see it. I want to explore how imaging and the visual languages supported by digital literacy structure identity in virtual spaces. I thank white Jesus for all the Foxconn employees who make scrolling Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and video editing possible everyday. My digital citizenship requires the acknowledgement of my privileged participation in a world in which networked connectivity is not synonymous with an equality of resources IRL.

But you know, that’s just me. I’m, like, really into the Internets, tho.

Pictured: Sondra Perry, White Sheets, 2014

RAFiA Santana

ASL: 25, she/her, Brooklyn
Website: raf-i-a.tumblr.com
Relevant Handles: RAFiASWORLD (SoundCloud)

Describe your artwork.

My work is almost a cartoon version of my diary. It’s another form of communication. Sometimes I don’t want to use words. I’d rather show images. Sometimes I’d rather talk through music, or build a form with my hands. I can say more with more mediums. I’m loud and colorful and mostly honest, so my artwork tends to be the same. If I find myself manic, lonely, depressed, horny, hungry, amorous, silly, whatever, I make work about it. It’s my way of staying well, addressing my emotions, and making the experience useful and fun.

Describe yourself as a digital citizen.

I’m more or less the same kind of citizen digitally as I am physically, just more present. There is so much I can get done on my laptop that I’d have a meltdown trying to do with my physical body. I can reach a lot more people, too, which means more communicating! I talk shit, crack jokes, and just generally express myself. Average stuff, but I find work value in everything I do.

Pictured: Rafia Santana, 100% Black, 2015

Bogosi Sekhukhuni

A/S/L: 24ish, Bantu, KWAALWORLD
Website: bogosisekhukhuni.tumblr.com
Relevant Handles: @bogosi_sekhukhunivevo

Describe your artwork.


What was your first experience on the Internet?

My first experience of the Internet, or virtual reality, was through the South African instant-messaging application Mxit. I have been thinking a lot about the profound impact that Mxit had on youth culture in South Africa after Y2K. Years before Facebook, South African kids were forming networks based on shared interests, through themed chat rooms; this was the Feed. Mxit hadn’t put much emphasis on user profiles, so there was a sense of anonymity that, in my mind, seemed to offer worlds of freedom—sexually and socially.

How do you define yourself as a digital citizen?

For me, my life as a digital citizen is about articulating the many versions of conscious thought that make up who I am. I’m drawn to the idea that there is a part of my sense of self (the subconscious) that is separate from my waking experiences. In many cultures this is a part that is linked to other dimensions or perceptions of reality. I approach the Internet as a tool that makes manifest the other or the abstract. In my view the technology that is the Internet anticipates ideas of connectivity and an acknowledgement of the depths of human imagining that is practiced and actualized in the traditions of African cosmology.

Pictured: Bogosi Sekhukhuni, Consciousness Engine 2: absentblackfatherbot, 2014

Martine Syms

A/S/L: Los Angeles
Website: martinesyms.com; dominicapublishing.com
Relevant Handles: @martinesyms

Describe your artwork.

I use publishing, video, and performance to look at the making and reception of meaning. I’m interested in the relationship between media, memory, and language.

How do you define yourself as a digital citizen?

I’m conflicted about all forms of citizenship. I can’t help thinking of Claudia Rankine’s knockout book [Citizen]. I try to be optimistic, honest, and open-minded. Half of me that thinks the Internet I grew up—which was truly magical—won’t exist in ten years. I’m doing what I can to prevent that from happening.

Anything else you think the world should know?

Next month I’m invoking the spirit of Sam Cooke in Nite Life with an installation and performance commissioned by ICA Miami and O, Miami Poetry Festival. Gina Trapani and I just made something cool for Rhizome’s Seven on Seven conference. In the September I have an exhibition at Bridget Donahue in New York that will be filled with considerations of my various citizenships.

Pictured: Martine Syms, For Nights Like These (I), 1979, 2014

Yatta Zoker

A/S/L: 23, she/her, occasionally they, Houston, Texas
Website: the-ldrproject.com
Relevant Handles:@yattazoker (Instagram)

Describe your artwork.

Always collaged, be it still image, film, or sound. I find that meaning presents itself best when unlikely juxtapositions seem to be telling you a secret. In terms of my digital work, I combine and craft technological run-off like mobile photos, text messages, and screenshots to create collage poems. The poems started off about love and long distance communication and then became more political, which I think is a natural progression.

As a teenager, I spent much of my time living 6,500 miles away from my family. The first time I fell in love, the majority of our conversations took place online very far away from one another. As a child of West African immigrants, long-distance calls were a large part of growing up. In this way, I have developed a fascination with and gratitude towards the digital communication tools that have allowed me to keep in touch with these loved ones throughout the years.

What was your first experience on the Internet?

For much of my life, I lived in Saudi Arabia. There is very little entertainment there. From a young age I was addicted to the Internet because I wanted to keep in contact with friends living in the US and because I was hungry for American culture. I would say my most intense first experiences with the Internet were staying up very late to make up for the time difference to catch my friends on AOL Instant Messenger.