What is freedom? Is it the desire not to be reigned or a desire for unsuppressed expression of one’s control for his/her’s immediate surroundings?
Well, I think in this day and age, it is the latter where we are more expressive of individuality and lack the taste for suppression from society in any form. Stereotyping, Misogyny etc. are all terms that are going to have a slow death in definition and practice over the next few decades as society passes through this extreme transitional phase. Change is the only permanent aspect of life and time, so consideration in change of sentiments and interactions will have new horizons as we involve ourselves in higher realms of thought and practice.
Trans-disciplinary artist Ani Liu, working in science and technology has provided just that in a way for her to explore the intersection between research, culture, and implications of emerging technologies.
She (Ani Liu) has long reflected on the role of the female body in the history of politics and patriarchal control. But two particular moments especially hit home for her: last October, when she heard Trump’s now notorious leaked recording in which he advocates for sexually assaulting a woman; and in January, when Trump signed an executive action that reinstated the global gag rule, which forbids foreign NGOs that receive US funding from so much as speaking about abortion. These moments in succession, she said, led her to investigate the interwoven forces that shape our perceptions of gender and how they create a biased illusion of normality. This culminated in her recent project, “Mind Controlled Sperm: Women of STEAM Grabs Back.”
Her project is a piece of performance art in which she uses an EEG machine (a brain-wave interface which captures and translates brain wave signals through a computer by measure thoughts through the electrical activity generated by them) to direct the movement of spermatozoa along the XY axis. A process called “Galvanotaxis” is used which the movement of single cell organisms and other cells is achieved through the influence of an electric field. Ani Liu collected the sperm of her husband for this performance and experiment which uses around 12 volts per centimeter on a circuit under the microscope, having the sperms move towards the positive electrode. The back and forth action of the sperms is achieved alternating the polarity of the electric fields which are then projected in a room through a projection mechanism.
Broadly@vice.com asked her a few questions around the same, the excerpts are mentioned below:
What was the inspiration behind this project?
Ani Liu: There was that viral video of Donald Trump being caught on camera saying, “grab them by the pussy”—you know, “when you’re famous you can do anything.” I’ve re-listened to this many times because it makes me so angry and really amps me up to make my work. I think a big part of this is having him on film saying something so chauvinist and totally women-objectifying and still being elected president—beyond all the terrible executive orders that will deeply impact women’s health — it’s also him as a symbol, as a man who uses women in this way.
So part of the inspiration behind this project as an artist, as someone who works in the cultural domain, was: How do you switch over the metaphors and the cultural landscape that men and women operate in, and how do you call to light the absurdities of power and bodies in politics?
The piece seems a bit more quiet and introspective than the work of someone like Barbara Kruger, who you name as an inspiration for the project. Was this intentional?
The materiality of the project itself was so charged already—to use semen in a project that has to do with feminism—so there was a decision to keep the aesthetics very lab-like, almost sterile. I also worked with a musician, Wendy Eisenberg, to create music for the project. So there’s that juxtaposition between this very clean, contextless aesthetic, and then something very embodied, through her voice.
As an artist and researcher approaching this topic, everything to do with women’s rights and feminism is already so charged, and I really wanted to use an aesthetic and communication that was more—I think “objective” is the wrong word—but something that speaks to the neutrality of science and information. And I think the music will bring the embodiment and emotion back into it.
Visually, the project doesn’t specifically name Trump or make reference towards the executive order or international NGOs affected. What message do you hope to convey with this project?
The project itself is weird and interesting and sci-fi-ish: A woman is using her brain to control the movement of sperm. Biologically speaking, there is almost a determinism: Sperm always move towards the chemical signatures of eggs—that’s just biology. In our cultural landscape, sperm is always used as a material semiotic—in pornography, for instance—to indicate dominance.
Part of my interest in combining art and science and having this lab aesthetic is to question what’s possible: to combine both and to present something that seems impossible. I’m hoping that it can be metaphor for what we can question in our social landscape as well.
I wanted to keep [the message of this project] kind of broad because it doesn’t just represent the problems with the Trump presidency as it relates to women. I think there’s a lot of patriarchal governments everywhere in the world, and I wanted to speak a little more broadly than to this moment in time.
Information courtesy: Broadly.vice.com & vice.com