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World of Female Avatars: An Artistic Online Survey on the Female Body in Times of Virtual Reality
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This paper describes the theoretical background of and the process on the net art project "World of Female Avatars" [1] in its development and in its final outcome of a working period of over two years. The project is a collaboration between the artist Evelin Stermitz and the project coders Jure Kodzoman, Ljiljana Perkovic and Loritz Zbigniew in the framework of ArtNetLab [2], a laboratory of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design and the Faculty of Information and Computer Science, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

As an ongoing project for the expanded understanding of women and their relation to their body, the internet is used as an artistic survey media whereby many different entries from different cultures around the world are collected through a public call for pictures and text, to be uploaded through an online form. The submitted pictures are used for a digital collage to create new bodies – the avatars of female body, which are living in the cyber "World of Female Avatars". The interactive browser format engages visitors of the website to play an active role in the net art project.


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Fig 1. 

Example of one digital collage of the net art project "World of Female Avatars." (© Evelin Stermitz)

The historic women's bodily relation is in transgression and influenced by society, culture, advertisement, consumption, commodification and gender, as in the post modern society the natural body changed into a cultural and an economic object.

Losing the body in times of virtual reality, avatar and cyborg values the body as obsolete in its natural manner, although it is in reality still existing. Philosophers, such as Adorno and Horkheimer, describe the "Interest on the Body" as deadly, because of the disturbed use of it as only in parts of prosthesis. But what remains from the body, if the body still exists? Is it just an imaginary surface for interacting to be created individually and changeable for different purposes or is it antagonistic to technology and therefore only natural?

The rise of New Media means for Paul Virilio an important break between man and woman because of the absence of body presence. To be in virtual space like an angel as a third sex is a position of future androgyny.

To compare the body to the use as an artistic material in the early seventies means for this project, to use not one's own artistic body as a source and material of the art work, but instead images of others are involved as an input source to construct here new bodies on the net.

The basic areas of interest in this artistic project are – body and technology, body and sex, the absent body, body and picture, body and violence, to be seen in the debate of the body in media art as of the draft of third sex, the emphasis on traditional visions of sex as disclosure of constructions of social sex (gender) and in the development of new body language.

Cyberfeminism and the Female Body in Context of Cyber Space

As a cyberfeminist strategy work, this net art project describes a female world without the emphasis on the female sex, but rather on the disclosure of gender and constructions of femininity.

The core cyberfeminist actions are aesthetic/artistic strategies, not only as deconstructions of representations of gender, but also of traditional concepts on the net and in the institutions of tech-culture. Terms of these practices are "recode", "remap", "relocate" and "re-construct" as a subversive method. Cyberfeminist projects work not as a massive front in a manner of counter cultural movements, they are subversive, infiltrating the mainstream with ironic breaks, citations and deformations [3].

To enter the cyber space means to leave the "meat space" behind, to enter the transcendental place of "mind over matter". For the body this can be a freedom of systems and norms. A body is represented in a culture as a different structure of concepts of what a body is, including images and functional models of how a body should act. Our task is to put a body into a flexible controlling position and to liberate the body from compulsory prescriptions of what a body is. A...



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