New Feminism: Wild Nature

‘Wild Nature’, the second part in ‘New Feminism’ programme brings together moving image works by London based artist Chooc Ly Tan and an essay by the curator, artist and researcher Julia Tcharfas. It links mythical stories about gender of celestial beings to invention of new words and language through the text of science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin, video collage and astrophysics. Discussing the potential of the subjective science and objective language, at the stake is who has the power to name, and who is allowed to imagine now or at any other time in history?

 

Hana Janečková

01 New Materials in the Reading of the World

United Kingdom, 2011

02 In Space There Is No Up Or Down

United Kingdom, 2012

03 Julia Tcharfas: New Materials for the Reading of the Moon

OUBLIISM is an exclamation, a proposition, a text, and a video by artist Chooc Ly Tan, co-written with Shabaka Hutchings, Peter Lewis, Dada and Recent Astrophysics. Tan describes OUBLIISM as a manifesto in which OUBLII! is a call to ‘conceive new physical realities’, to give birth to ‘new worlds and system’. The artist creates the new declaration in hopes of generating new meaning and hence a new reality.

In order for a new reality to manifest itself, ‘to herald the genesis of cosmic time’, one must forget familiar concepts.

‘[OUBLIISM] tears to fractions all those grand words like ethics, culture, humanism, good, evil, beginning, end…’

OUBLIISM, Tan suggests, is both a word and a world. It is something one can be a part of. In fact, for her it seems to reside somewhere in London.

Perhaps in an attempt to visualize a new reality, new languages as well as new words have always been essential. Science fiction is exemplary of creating new worlds through language and changing our understanding of the world by populating it with new concepts and terms.

Recently, I have been taking part in the Future Polities reading group, organized by Living in the Future Magazine, where we have read Ursula K. Le Guin’s sci-fi novel, The Dispossessed (1974). Much like Tan’s invented manifesto, The Dispossessed uses the difficulty of language to question societal norms. It features an anarchist society on a moon (Urras) looking back at a world much like the Earth (Anarres). The two worlds orbiting in synchronicity present polar realities: one of a paradisiacal nature inhabited by a society of inequality and greed, and another of a barren silver-dust desert of few resources and humanist ideals.

The anarchic lunar society strives to achieve equality through a strict control of language. Their language, Pravic, shuns possessive pronouns, assuming by the principle of linguistic relativity that meaning can only be created once it has been expressed in words. In Pravic, words such as ‘his’, ‘hers’, ‘mine’, or ‘have’ are deemed ‘nonorganic’ and therefore are excluded from language. The inhabitants of this world would not attribute possession to things or people, referring to ‘the mother’ instead of ‘my mother’, or saying ‘the hand hurts me’ instead of ‘my hand hurts,’ and so on. As a teacher on Urras explains,

 

“Speech is sharing — a cooperative art.”

The novel’s complex emotional landscape presents the inherent contradiction in this governance of language: on the one hand, the limited vocabulary facilitates the concept of equality, and on the other it creates a mechanism of control within the mind of the individual. The female character Takver learns to overcome the internal conflict, when she defines love and is able to explain her own concept of a relationship. This also frees the mind of the main character, Shevek.

OUBLIISM’s manifesto video is punctuated with a collage of images of space and technology. In my research, I have found many parallels between the imagined worlds of science fiction and the history of exploration in our own solar system. In this sense, new realities and parallel worlds are found not only in science fiction, but in the material universe that surrounds us. In The Dispossessed, an alternate reality plays out on a moon, but our own moon is in many ways a world full of projected realities, fictions, and terminology.

In English, early attempts to name our Moon, have called her a goddess governing nature: seas, oceans, and food cycles. In return, she gave us new concepts of time, lunacy, and menstruation. It is in nomenclature that we define boundaries: spatial, temporal, social, and cultural.

Our world’s only natural satellite has had as many names as there have been cultures on the Earth. In the Algonquian Native American tradition, she has taken on 12 names at once, one for each month of the year. Now known as either the Anglo-Saxon ‘Moon’, or the Latin ‘Luna’, she has become a sphere of projections. Just like the people chained to the walls of Plato’s cave, for centuries we have observed the dark craters of the Moon, and began to allocate names to these shadows.

By observing the moon we have seen animals and faces in the shadows of its surface, and later seas and forests. We have given names to the geographical features of the landscape. The craters of the moon are populated with names of historical figures, scientists, astronomers, as well as dead astronauts and cosmonauts. Out of the thousands of named craters 20 are women of historical significance. But perhaps the biggest anomaly, are the 40 craters named with popular women’s names of differently cultures. These names don’t belong to anyone in particular. They have never had a body, historical or otherwise. The 40 women on the moon, like the moon goddess herself, are a cultural cosmic manifestation of an illusory female history on par with science fiction.

04 Chooc Ly Tan - Biography

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Let's Make it Another Possible Now, performance, Flat Time House 2014

London-based artist Chooc Ly Tan works across moving image, installation and performance. Selected film and video-programmes include Selected 4 (2014) and Selected 1 (2011) touring at CCA, Glasgow, Whitechapel gallery and more venues across the UK; Austerity Measures touring at Cell, London, CCCB, Barcelona, Fuso International Video Art Festival, Lisbon, Waterside, Riga, BIOS, Athens, Timishort Film Festival, Romania, Milano Film Festival (2013).

Recent performances include ‘Let’s make another possible now’, Flat Time House and Gasworks (both London, 2014). Residencies include WAÏ #2, Saint-Lunaire, France (2014); Defining Pi, Wysing Art Centre, in collaboration with Cambridge Computer Lab (2013). Chooc Ly Tanhas had solo exhibitions at Carlos/Ishikawa, London and Transmission Gallery, Glasgow (both 2012).

05 Julia Tcharfas - Biography

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The Conquest of Gravity as Such, Tim Ivison and Julia Tcharfas, Tenderpixel Gallery,
Photo by OriginalandtheCopy

Julia Tcharfas (born 1982, Donetsk, Ukraine) is currently working as the assistant curator of the Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age exhibition at the Science Museum in London. A significant part of her work is an ongoing collaborative practice with artist and researcher, Tim Ivison.

Her recent projects include, Art/work Association, Auto Italia, The Conquest of Gravity as Such, Tenderpixel Gallery, Systems Learning from the Inside, Chisenhale Gallery, Recent Work By Artists, Auto Italia, and Render, Hilary Crisp Gallery.

06 New Feminism - I turn the images of my voice in my head

”New Feminism – I turn the images of my voice in my head” is a regular online presentation of work by a generation of artists responding to the on going fourth wave of feminism. Author of the project is Hana Janečková. Screenings of artists’ moving image will be accompanied by commissioned texts from curators, critics and theoreticians writing about the influence of feminism, technology and new media on contemporary culture.

What has happened recently to your body? Are you proud to be male or female? Can you be a feminist if your avatar enjoys wearing pink? Do you think gender is a capitalist concept? If so, do you think it existed in the former Eastern Block?

07 Exhibition credits

Author of the Project / Curator: Hana Janečková
Authors of Texts: Julia Tcharfas and Hana Janečková
Online Exhibition Concept: Hana Janečková and Lenka Střeláková
Editing and Realization: Lenka Střeláková
Translated into Czech: Palo Fabuš
Published: 24. 12. 2014