Immaterial Girl

Immaterial Girl.  Artforum-May-2001
Robert Bresson’s 1967 film Mouchette, in which the fourteen-year-old protagonist is driven to suicide, might seem a grim premise for a website, but transcends the merely macabre to offer a gripping prototype for Net artist as ghost in the machine. Begun in October 1996 by an anonymous Amsterdam-based artist who calls herself “Mouchette” and (still) claims to be “nearly thirteen,” the site has evolved from simple characterimpersonation into an interactive narrative, attracting devoted fans who send its heroine gifts and advice, including novel ideas on how to kill herself (for a 1997 work titled Suicide Kit).

From its pink-and-greencolor scheme to the elusive links that flit as files across the pages (Mouchette means “little fly” in French). Mouchette’s milieu strikes a subtle balance between innocense and ingenuity. Her enchanting precocity recalls. Alice by way of Lolita. “Put your cheek on the monitor,” she teases in Flesh & Blood, 1998, an imageof her own face pressed against the screen. “How does it feel?” An e-mail link is provided for replies; if you write, Mouchette will almost certainly respond, in character of course. Ghost or no, she has exhibited a number of works as individual projects, and she’s being considered for a group show at P.S. 1 this fall.

The conflation of artist and creation, of sophisticated desires and childish games, gives the site an air of intrigue tempered by melancholy. cannily evoked in the way Mouchette flaunts her fate even as she questions it (“How can I write this since I’m dead?”). Like Nabokov’s eternal nymphet, Mouchette is a specter of fantasy, but to the community that’s sprung up around her, she’s virtually real.

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