"Is there room in the global arena that is the net for the small, the domestic and the whims of a neurotic woman?" Jessica Loseby.
The answer came swiftly: Jess made a much-noticed entry into the world of net.art. In just two years, her works have been presented, among other places, at the FILE 2003 (São Paulo), the LUX OPEN 2003 (London), the 16th Stuttgart Filmwinter – Festival for Expanded Media (online);
they have been selected by Rhizome for their Artbase; she is the first artist to participate in an online residence project titled FurtherStudio offered by Furtherfield in England. For this innovative project, websurfers are invited, according to a pre-established and realtime schedule, to watch the work in progress and to dialogue with the artist. With much determination, she has built "a cyber-room of one's own" where she welcomes websurfers to hear her, and she definitely has something to say. There is no point in speculating at length on her condition as a young paraplegic mother with three kids, something she assumes fully. She does it for us by making everyday things the source of her inspiration. Among other considerations, the Web as a place where you can speak for yourself has become a new reality for many individuals. Yet you must still be able to make your place there. Or at least have something to say. It’s about creating a place, virtual if need be, and why not virtual, since it stimulates new possibilities in reality.
She brilliantly merges texts, animations, and music in her short pieces in which she explores her surroundings and her daily life. Her thoughts float in a darkness devoid of pathos, thanks to her paradoxical humour, which is both sarcastic and refreshing. In an interview with Tara Noid, she confides that this humour, which is crucial in her work, worries her sometimes because people who see it, such as Americans, don't have a great sense of irony or sarcasm. (1)
Why this worry? Because one of her big fears is being misunderstood; clearly, it is very important for her that people understand what she has to say. At a time when it is commonly accepted that meaning is floating — deconstruction oblige
— it is surprising to see at what point getting her message across with authenticity is important for this young artist.
Many contemporary artists, often women, have made use of digital technologies to construct an identity for themselves — from Lynn Hershman Lesson to Mouchette, to mention just two emblematic figures. This is not the case for Loseby. There is no intent to rename or reinvent oneself here. What she communicates really matters for her and she is not afraid to irritate visitors and keep them waiting. Almost forcefully, she tells us: sit down and listen to me, without giving us the possibility to respond.
Her practice grew around what she calls a "cyber-aesthetics of the domestic", that is the exploration of stories and images that reflect her life. Without seeking to draw attention to her condition as a wheelchair-bound young mother, though this forms an intrinsic part of her artistic work, Jess uses this situation as a tool and metaphor to express isolation and the fragility of the human condition.
In one of her first pieces, Hello
, the words (white) appear one after the other on the screen (black). A desire for communication slowly takes shape, as though she were calling out to some other presence. In the beginning, the tone is friendly, curious, even engaging. But the speech-writing advances hesitantly, as she confronts obstacles in her attempt to establish contact with her "interlocutor." Our inability to respond to her creates a tension that reveals a quandary found in all communication: how do you make sure that you are being understood? And as if she senses our resistance to understand her, the tone changes and becomes more aggressive. It confines itself in a beckettian soliloquy, and finally ends up simply disappearing into the black of the screen.
letters are drawn, as though they were written in front of us, live, by the hand of a child. The letter hesitantly takes shape, becomes blurred, turns into a drawing or a hieroglyph, and finally ends in a chaotic state. The artist uses almost the same technique in restricted movement
, except that here she applies figurative means.
is a good example of the humor that she is fond of. The title obviously refers to the dancing service that can be found in specialized bars or cabarets. But in this tightly framed piece, a female character makes two of her fingers dance on one of her thighs...
The net.art challenge
simulates an interactive game in which victory or defeat depends on your capacity (or incapacity) to click as fast as possible on one of the icons of Western art. If you win, you qualify as a net-artist!
A good part of her work is based on visual encrypting methods. Layers of images, textures, and translucid words slip in and on top of each other, just barely legible or even beyond…the meaning reveals itself, hides, re-emerges, disintegrates…the temporal unfolding of the works involve the spectator as they are developed. Most of them are like messages in a bottle: will they reach their destination, in other words will they reach you? No doubt, these pieces have been created for you;
the artist only addresses a person in front of their screen.
Besides her personal work, Loseby is also active as an artist-curator. The Cyber Kitchen
, created with Michael Takeo Magruder, is a net.art project launched on July 23, 2002 in collaboration with 33 artists from, among others, the UK, the United States, Romania, Spain, Croatia and France. The origin of the project is the artist's irritation with a certain attitude (which she qualifies as schizophrenic) that is prevalent in the net.art milieu. It is an attitude that claims that net.art should have no relation to our "reality", and which assumes that there is a split between our virtual life and our real life. The project is also driven by her frustration with the constraints imposed during the call for net.art projects, which limit creativity and the freedom to experiment. The Cyber Kitchen
is free, has no deadline and no constraints. Fearing that the site might be perceived as "feminine", Jess was surprised by the number of male artists who contributed to it. Building on the premise of cyber-aesthetics of the domestic, the project is based on an exploration of objects found in her kitchen; these are then recuperated by the participants with the goal of inventing their own stories, associations and uses. The site is presented as an open portal to art works; however, it doesn't resemble a gallery in any way. Here you can encounter digital photography, video, interactive animation, digital painting and textual works. The aim is to open the project up to other rooms in the house, which gives us a good idea of what community means for Loseby. The project is still active and propositions are welcome. (8)
In her personal work as well as in her artist-curator work, Jess has appropriated Deleuze and Guattari's comment on the role of the artist: "...artists are presenters of affects, the inventors and creators of affects. They not only create them in their work, they give them to us and make us become with them, they draw us into the compound." (9)