Rachel Lau

Rachel Lau discusses on Digital art and identity

Visual Culture and Digital Media Mid-term essay

Essay topic: 5. Many digital artworks present identity in a new and interesting manner. Discuss one or two digital artworks, commenting in detail on the manner in which they represent identity.

From the past until now, the notion of identity has always been addressed in art consciously or unconsciously. For example, in some paintings like portrait or genre painting, we can easily recognize the possible social and cultural identities of the depicted person or sitter through the title or depiction of how they look, act and what they wear. Hence, we can speculate or discover who or what the depicted persons are in the painting. In late-modern society, the idea of identity has become more complicated since different identity categories appear like online identity, hidden identity and so on. In digital art, some artists also like to address the idea of identity in their works in a new and interesting manner. And in this essay, I would like to discuss Mouchette’s Mouchette.org and Kazuhiko Hachya’s Inter Dis-communication Machine(1993) on how they address to the idea of identity and express my opinions on them.
Mouchette’s Mouchette.org and Kazuhiko Hachya’s Inter Dis-communication Machine(1993) are two quite different works in different presentations since one is trying to exploring the idea of online identity and the other one is expressing the concept of “self” and body. Firstly, I would like to give a general introduction ofMouchette.org. According to New Media Art (1) ,http://mouchette.org/ is a website that created by an artist or a group of artists who calls herself “ Mouchette” in 1996. In the index page, we can see that the artist(s) uses some texts to describe herself as a 13-year-old girl who lives in Amsterdam. Actually, “Mouchette” is a book by Georges Bernanos and adaptation movie by Robert Bresson, about a teenage girl who committed suicide because of the poor family life and being raped. Hence, the online identity of “Mouchette” is not the actual identity of the artist(s). As visitors browse the site through the buttons, they can visit the different interfaces of it. Some shocking background images, bizarre sounds, deceptive texts can be seen in the content which addressed some issues, like sex, death, violence and identity.
Then, I am going to discuss how this project present the identity. As I mentioned before the anonymous artist(s) uses the identity of fictional protagonist, Mouchette to build up this site. “Mouchette” is a French word which means “little fly” (2) . So we can see the images of fly appear in some interfaces and it can be the avatar of Mouchette. Based on the story of Mouchette, Mouchette is a suicidal teenager because of her unhappy life. So the site contains with lots of gloomy element which can make the visitors feel blue and unconformable or even disgusted in some pages. For example, in Mouchette at m.org.ue, an image of foot with toe tag is shown and the background music is horrible. The whole scene give a sense of death as the toe tag is put on the body normally . What is more, Mouchette was ignored by her parents in the movie. And the site also address to the Mouchette’s hate to her parents in My fatherand My mother. The images of raw meats are appeared with the name “Papa” and “Mama” while “Mouchette” wrote, “They say I’m their own flesh and blood, so this is what I wanted to show in these portrait: their flesh and blood …” (3) Although “Mouchette” wrote that this page showed the love she had for her father/mother , the bloody and disgusting images only evoke negative emotion and no sense of love can be found. The inner feelings of “Mouchette” are portrayed via the texts, images and sounds while the identity of “Mouchette” is fictional. If we don’t know the novel or movie, the online identity of “Mouchette” may make us feel that “Mouchette” is a real person in the reality as we can have interaction with her through the e-mail and questionnaires. I think the work raises the question of what is the true of the online identity.
Mouchette.org is an interactive website. “Mouchette” usually invites the visitor to participate in the questionnaires or discussions and leaving a comment to her with the visitor’s name and e-mail address. Hence, “Mouchette” can know the real identity of the participant while nobody knows “her”. For example, in Suicide Kit, “Mouchette” is asking a question of “What is the best way to kill yourself when you’re under 13 ?” (4) . visitor should leave their personal information if they want to answer the question and then the data will appear inAnswers. That’s mean everyone can see who the participants are and what their answers are. To discuss this taboo subject – suicide , participants should take responsible to what they say as their name and e-mail address are shown on the site. The notion of identities between the participants and “Mouchette” is in a big contrast since the creator is anonymous.
Visitors not only can response to Mouchette’s questions, but also can“become Mouchette”. After being Mouchette member, visitors may have a chance to be one of the artist(s) who can edit Mouchette.org. What it’s mean, the boundary between visitors’ identity and creator’s identity is being blurred and everyone can be Mouchette. Hence, I absolutely agree to this statement ,“This is layered over a fundamental identity question about the authorship of the site and the responses posted on it.” (5)
Another digital work I am going to discuss is Kazuhiko Hachya’s Inter Dis-communication Machine(1993). According to Digital Art (6) , this design is for twp participants to use. Wearing head-mounted display(HMD), the visual sights of two participants will be exchanged and the concept of self will be confused as one will receive the vision of another one. Kazuhiko Hachya said, “The situation I have tried to create is that of a “double identity self” and “mutual identity”.” (7) I think that Hachya used the contradiction between “double identity self” and “mutual identity” to explore the question of interpersonal relationship. And I also think that the machine create the state of out-of-body since the true identity of self has been disappeared.
All in all, the technology development allows people to access digital world frequently. Increasingly familiar presences of the Internet and digital media in our daily lives make us to question on the true identity and “self”. Although Mouchette.org and Inter Dis-communication Machine(1993) are presented in different way(one is network art and one is electronic work), I think both of them can give a new idea of identity and lead us to rethink the position of our virtual identity and the concept of self. And both of them provides us a platform to interact will other people.
1. Mark Tribe and Reena Jana, “Mouchette.org.” in New Media Art (Koln:Taschen, 2006) P. 66.
2. “Mouchette.org: Mouchette, petite mouche”:http://mouchette.org/nom/fly.html
3. “Mouchette.org: My father”:http://mouchette.org/flesh/pere2.html
4. “Mouchette.org: Suicide Kit”:http://www.mouchette.org/suicide/suikit.html
5. Sarah Stein and Edward Yip, “Mouchette: Interactivity and Accountability”.http://www.dartmouth.edu/~arthist/content/websites/website4/website4.html. accessed 2008-11-01.
6. Christiane Paul, “ Body and Identity” in Digital Art, (Thames and Hudson, 2003) P.173.
7. ARS Electronica Aechive on Inter Dis-Communication Machine.http://www.aec.at/en/archives/prix_archive/prix_projekt.asp?iProjectID=11264. accessed 2008-11-01.


An annotated Bibliography

1. Christiane Paul, “ Body and Identity” in Digital Art, (Thames and Hudson, 2003) P.165-174. It’s useful because it provide a general idea of identity in digital art with lots of examples.
2. Tom Corby, eds. “Arts as experience: meet the active audience” in Network Art: Practices and Positions (Routledge, 2006) P. 31-36. It’s useful for me to have a better understanding about Internet artworks
3. Steven Holtzman, Digital Mosaics: The Aesthetics of Cyberspace (Simon & Schuster, 1997) Looks easy to read and the information on it is reliable
4. Anna BentkowskaKafel, Trish and Hazel Gaediner, eds. Digital Art History: A Subject in Transition – Computers and the History of Art Volume One (Antony Rowe Ltd, 2005) Give me a better understanding on digital art
5. Mark Tribe and Reena Jana, “Mouchette.org.” in New Media Art (Koln:Taschen, 2006) P. 19, 66-67. A brief introduction onMouchette.org
6. Sarah Stein and Edward Yip, “Mouchette: Interactivity and Accountability”.http://www.dartmouth.edu/~arthist/content/websites/website4/website4.html, accessed 2008-11-01.A very useful online article, including detailed introduction an analysis on Mouchette.org
7. Stelarc, “From Zombie to Cyborg Bodies – Extra Ear, Exosekeletonand Avatars by Stelarc”, http://neme.org/main/250/from-zombie-to-cyborgNeMe Article 7, November 2005. Not relate to my discussion but addressing the idea of identity
8. Charlie Gere, Art, Time and Technology: Histories of the Disappearing Body, (Berg, 2005) Give me a better understanding on digital art and provide some example on how the artists use electronic information to create work
9. Frank Popper, Art of the Electronic Age, (Thames & Hudson, 1997)Easy to read and useful
10. Jane Harris “Immaterial Girl – web site based on Mouchette film character – Brief Article”. ArtForumFindArticles.com.http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0268/is_9_39/ai_75914220.accessed%202008-11-01 Less information on Mouchette.org

“Without an audience which adds content, navigates, reacts, or accepts an invitation for participation or an invitation to make use of a specific work nothing happens, and more importantly, without this there is practically no art experience.”

– By Josephine Bosma, “Arts as experience: meet the active audience” in Network Art: Practices and Positions (Routledge, 2006) P. 31.

“ Computers allow the possibility to adjust or design to what degree information can be manipulated, or can be controlled at wish, by the author/artist.”

– By Josephine Bosma, “Arts as experience: meet the active audience” in Network Art: Practices and Positions (Routledge, 2006) P. 32.

“The Web will redraw the boundary between our fictitious and our real identities.”

– By Steven Holtzman, Digital Mosaics: The Aesthetics of Cyberspace (Simon & Schuster, 1997) P. 39.

“ Online identity allows a simultaneous presence in various spaces and contexts, a constant ‘reproduction’ of the self without body.”

– By Christiane Paul, “ Body and Identity” in Digital Art, (Thames and Hudson, 2003) P.165.

“This real world actually only exists in the brain of any one person, so everyone sees a different world.”Here, I am.” In this case, “here” is the place where “my” eyes exist; it is the center of the world. ”

– From ARS Electronica Aechive on Inter Dis-Communication Machine

Comments are closed.