Why Are There No Great Women Net Artists?

Vague Histories of Female Contribution According to Video and Internet Art

Initially shortened for publication on Pooool.info(June 2011)

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Preface: Rethinking histories of media authorship

This essay began as an effort to understand reasons for the lack of female representation in web-based art, and grew into a survey of locating practices in comparison to the successes of historical precedents from the 1970s onwards. Any attempt to analyze a lineage of cultural production from the history to the present contemporary and historical performances cannot happen without generalizations, tangents and foreshortened reflections of previous theories with a skeptical postmodern lens. I am aware that not all artists mentioned in this essay may not identify as feminists and do not intend to mark their contribution as distinctively “feminist” by genre. I choose to compare notable contributions of women in past and present throughout video and internet art history to reconcile an ongoing question about the underrepresentation of women in art.

Therefore, this is a three-part essay that explores:

1) the history of womenʼs achievements in video and internet art from 1970 to 2010

2) Identification of ongoing problems in representing women and feminist performance in the western artistic canon

3) A brief look at social/institutional determinants and constraints that have affected the chances of women with web-based practices entering exhibition spaces

I call this a vague history as my research and examples were culled from online searches, web browsing, and conversations and debates with women and art historians. Therefore, this study performs the two-tailed function of surveying an always-incomplete history of womenʼs contribution in media arts, and a speculation on the potentials for rethinking curating video and internet art with context-aware approaches to gender analysis.