" ... although women have been central in the development of technology-mediated art, they are still very underrepresented in the industry, as well as to point out that not all women have access to the tools needed to work and communicate with technology. "
-- Judy Malloy
Gender and Identity in New Media
a Semifinalist for 1999 Global Information Infrastructure (GII) Award.
Arts Wire Current
Judy Malloy's Collected Internet Works
its name was Penelope
Hypertext by Judy Malloy available from Eastgate Systems
interviewed by Jennifer Ley
One really cannot think about women and technology without thinking of Judy Malloy, and the voluminous amount of work she has done in the field of digital arts and literature, from Uncle Roger, originally published on the WELL, to the hypertext work its name was Penelope published by Eastgate Systems, to her work at Arts Wire, to the online conference Gender and Identity in New Media, which provides an on-going online forum for women working in the field of digital literary arts to meet and discuss issues of mutual interest. Here, she talks to us about her work, her goals, and her thoughts about the future.
What led you to create the online conference Gender and Identity in New Media? What were your primary goals for this conference?
Judy Malloy: In reading the papers submitted for a book on Women working in New Media. (which I'm editing for MIT Press) and in talking with the contributors, I was struck by how conflicted many of us are with the idea of emphasizing our gender.
The idea of the book was to emphasize that women were pioneers in this field/were key in developing this field, and I specifically told contributors that they did not need to address gender issues in their papers. Their work speaks for itself!
Many women in this area did not mention gender issues at all in their papers. Some clearly thought it should not be mentioned. One woman declined to be in the book because she did not want to be in a gender focused book. In contrast, others felt strongly either that it was important to document work by women which was overlooked by mainstream coverage or that their gender was a core issue in the work.
The online panel - spurred by Invencao conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil to which Roger Malina invited me but to which I could not travel for both financial reasons and because I am disabled -- offered to expand the framework of the book by discussing these issues -- to provide a place to discuss core issues of gender and identity in new media which the book -- because of its focus on documentation of the work itself did not address.
Additionally, in the book, the panel seeks to call attention to the fact that although women have been central in the development of technology-mediated art, they are still very underrepresented in the industry, as well as to point out that not all women have access to the tools needed to work and communicate with technology.
The panel will eventually be attached to a web site associated with the book -- thus expanding not only the theoretical issues addressed/not addressed in the book but also the women artists included in the project.
You've mentioned that you are reopening the online forums at Gender and Identity in New Media. What are your new goals for this project?
Judy Malloy: It is a continuation of the same work. Thus the goals remain the same -- to provide a place to discuss core issues of gender and identity of women working in new media.
The panel is included in the exhibition ArtChivage at RDV in Paris thru February 12, but I broke another part of my already much broken leg a few weeks ago and was not able to do the outreach needed to rekindle the discussions.
What originally led you to start working with technology?
Judy Malloy: I had been trying to make nonsequential artists books since the mid-seventies. These were in the form of card catalogs. multiples, and electro-mechanical one-of-a-kind books. But they never exactly realized my vision. In the mid-eighties when computers became prevalent, I sat down at the Apple II I had purchased primarily for my son and realized that here was the means to make the kinds of books I had envisioned. I should add that I already knew how to program, having studied FORTRAN in the late sixties.
At the same time that I began working with what I called "narrabases" (narrative database structures) Carl Loeffler started Art Com Electronic Network on the WELL - thus providing the place where Uncle Roger; Bad Information, You! and other early works were initially exhibited online.
Do you sense an increasing overlap between the literary arts and the plastic arts since the advent of the Web?
Judy Malloy: I come from artists books/performance/installation background where for many years there has been an intertwining of arts. Now, because we are all sharing the common platform of the Web (in the computer sense as well as in the place to exhibit sense) we are not only enriched because we experience art forms we may not have previously experienced but also we are increasingly incorporating these forms into our works.
As you state, women (and men) have been using technology to create art and literature before the advent of the Web. What impact do you think the Web is having on the number of women who now use technology in their work and the manner in which they use it?
Judy Malloy: The now pervasive presence of the Web in our culture is both an empowerment and a loss.
When AOL and Time Warner announced their intention to a merge a few weeks ago, Paul Saffo, director of the Institute for the Future, told the Los Angeles Times that "We will look back on this year as marking the day that the Internet ceased to be a 'technology' and became a mass media industry."
Indeed, web interface software, web authoring software have made it possible for artists to both create and exhibit/publish in/on the Web without a deep knowledge of the technologies involved. As a result, the Web is now as much a platform (in the sense of a gallery, a bookstore, a theater) as it is a medium. The resulting increased access to audience is important for woman, minorities, artists with disabilities and other traditionally disempowered groups. It also means that artists who chose to do so can use the Web as a platform without radically altering the nature of their work. This is important because every artist has a different vision.
At the same time, artists who choose to work with the Internet as a medium continue to have the opportunity to make works which operate at the frontiers of art and technology.
Some of the Internet's open horizons, have, however, been submerged in this new web environment. It is harder to create and sustain multidirectional community and collaboration, of the kind which existed in the (pre-web) text based online communities. And the idea of approaching the Internet as an experimental medium is less prevalent as inevitable conventions increasingly shape the nature of web use.