Hacking the Network

Maria Hera, Šejma Fere & Lena Violetta Leitner


November 6th – 11th

Reticulated female hackers

Building networks in the globalized world is surely an imperative in almost all areas of social activity. We are apparently dealing with a positive phenomenon, but observed from the perspective of the market, networking is expressed in profitability, competition, quality and authenticity quotas. This claim is primarily related to the flow of global capital, which necessarily entails with a number of implications that are directly reflected in, in this case, important to us, the development of science and art.
But what happens when other types of networking occur, the ones that are critically directed towards before mentioned (capitalistic) order? Systematic penetration occurs, programs are being modified, illegal entrance to other security and operating systems happen, the hacking simply happens. The motive behind each hackery can be economical, but often it is political or ideological. Therefore, artistic practices which pay attention to such ideas are positioned precisely at the articulation of the present moment and it remains only a question of how they are realized, more precisely, how exactly one can hack with art and what is the point such an action.
The artists Maria Hera, Šejma Fere and Lena Violetta Leitner, albeit seemingly different sensibilities, are establishing a dialogue by focusing on different models of conceiving images on an analog / digital basis. By using various methods of collaging, deconstructing and changing meanings, each artist establishes her own micro-narrative on the trail of the idea of hacking (the exhibition title), which will be more discussed later.
Above all, it is important to point out that the very choice of media of collage as a basis of research of each artist inevitably invokes a certain dose of reference in the context of avant-garde movements and their emancipatory potential. Namely, in parallel with radical art experiments which imply working with new technologies, taking a critical position not only towards the art system but also towards the whole society, there are also a rising amount of female artists whose actions contribute and further improve the ideas of the movement. Dadaism should be singled out here, since due to its conceptual framework, it may be distinguished as the least phallocentric and patriarchal artistic phenomenon of avant-garde flows of the first half of the 20th century.
This type of link with avant-garde is not negligible and it seems to be too important since these three artists also articulate their own gender in relation to digital technologies and consumerism, without disregarding the ideological implications that such an engagement inevitably involves.
Namely, Hera, Fere, and Leitner start from the commonplace respectively the fact that the flow of information in the digital era is by no means a one-way process, but it is elusive, dispersive and extremely heterogeneous. Accordingly, the gallery space for them ceases to be a place of mere representation, yet it becomes multifunctional – laboratory, classroom or debate room, which is supported by the media heterogeneity and the hybridity of the exhibited works.
Whether it’s a series of analog and digital works on paper, interactive installations or performance, another reference point in addition to collage as a research base is the symbiosis of technology and nature. By introducing a botanical vocabulary, or directly integrating plant species or by mimicking the shape of the plant’s root (rhizome), the artists are further conceptually connected, and they perform an authentic narrative of new characters, symbols or perhaps the allegory of contemporaneity in the light of the intersection of art and technology.
The intriguing title of the exhibition leads us to think that the hackers’ agenda of this female trio is directed towards usurpation, penetration into the art system. The motifs are multiple and concerning the uncertainty of the economic position of the contemporary (female) artist in the globalized world, the acceptance of a whole set of compromises, institutional and non-institutional peripeteia, and so on. However, precisely on the trail of Dadaism comes the impression that Hera, Leitner and Fere, each from her own perspective, and again collectively, realize a specific network within which they abolish, disappear and vanish, but at the same time build their positions from nothing.
Therefore, artists start from tabula rasa, and it can be said that they hack themselves to bring some new results on their own as well as collective research. This certainly does not mean that their process of work is narrow, on the contrary, it corresponds to contemporaneity by questioning and problematizing actual topics such as (miss) use of digital technology, consumerism, migration, assimilation, and ecology.

Text: Vladimir Bjeličić, art historian
Photo: Lena Violetta Leitner