Nancy Buchanan: Just the Beginning—A Small Survey

It’s about time we saw more women represented in media exhibitions! This document is a miniscule sample of the many talented women artists making technological art. I thought it important to represent a variety of directions, including performance, installation, and online presence. Women hackers, software developers and innovators may be found globally, and should be represented (at the very least) in numbers equal to their male colleagues—let’s hope that, in the future, this will be so! Again, this is just a small start….



VNS Matrix (Josephine Starrs, Julianne Pierce, Francesca da Rimini and Virginia Barratt) wrote the first cyberfeminist manifesto in 1991.


There are a number of collective or collaborative groups online—


In 1997, Cornelia Sollfrank founded the “Old Boys Network”

And also in 1997, Sollfrank hacked the “world’s first” net art competition, EXTENSION, organized by the Hamburg Art Museum in Germany. Her work entitled Female Extension involved the creation of 289 websites created by combing the Internet and combining fragments of HTML into exquisite corpse-like websites. Each website was submitted under the name of a different female artist. No women were awarded prizes….



 (1923 – 2015)

Steina Vasulka, who, with her husband Woody, founded The Kitchen performance space in New York City, was a classical violinist; in 1991, she used a MIDI violin to “play” a videodisk. Exploring the notion of “machine vision,” Steina created environments using a mirrored sphere and multiple cameras, resulting in impossible views.

Pioneer of interactivity, work in 3-D, and visual music. A musical composer as well as visual artist, Vibeke set up the first computer laboratory at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Her work has been shown worldwide, and she has enjoyed many collaborations with other artists.

In 1982, Rebecca Allen produced a computer-generated video featuring Twyla Tharp’s choreography set to David Bryne’s “Catherine Wheel.” She is a pioneer in VR artwork, and has also produced interactive installations. In 2007, Allen was a creator of the XO Laptop for the project One Laptop per Child that brings low-cost computers to children in developing countries.

Author of Lorna (1984), one of the earliest interactive video installations using a laser disc, Lynn Hershman Leeson has explored attitudes toward women, including objectification, abuse, and surveillance. Other themes concern the emergence of technology and women’s contributions to its history. Hershman Leeson also shaped early Art school programs, notably at the San Francisco Art Institute and the University of California, Davis.

Hito Steyerl holds a PhD in Philosophy from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, and her analysis of contemporary culture is invaluable for its insights into visual culture and its influences on social behavior. Her experimental documentaries combine critique with up-to-the-minute pop culture icons, the result somewhat resembling a Godardian sci-fi movie.

Shu Lea Cheang is currently based in Paris, but has resided in several different countries. Beginning with her history of working with paper Tiger Television, she has collaborated with others to create film, net art, performance and video installations, often approaching activist subject matter. Her online piece Brandon (1998–99) was inspired by the tragic story of Brandon Teena, a transman who was raped and murdered in 1993 after his gender was revealed.

Amy Alexander—a funny woman–who has also worked under the names Cue P. Doll and VJ Übergeek, has originated software-based net art, beginning with her Multi-Cultural Recycler (1996/7). She enjoys drumming and has produced gesture-based software that distorts video images in various interesting fashions.

Perry Bard’s net art project of updating “Man with a Movie Camera” traveled the world; now archived, the resulting remixed video may be viewed online.

Sara Roberts makes, distributes and conducts workshops with her portable audio recorder/players. She is especially interested in how groups may experiment together to create compositions, since she designs the Earbees to be distributed in sets of 13.

Helen Varley Jamieson and Paula Crutchlow use live, networked performance to explore poetic, theatrical events between two ordinary houses connected through an online interface, accessible through their Live Stage link. Additionally, participants are asked to bring all leftover plastic from the previous 24 hours to the event, where they can join in some games and tasks. Paula and Helen (one in each house) guide the evening, with audience interaction; these actions are streamed to online audiences who can also join the activities and contribute text chat that is visible on the interface to everyone participating.

Amor Munoz approaches computers from the point of view that the early analog machines were “woven” wires, and that their logic resembles that of a loom. In “Yuca_Tech,” she traveled to the henequen manufacturing area of Yucatan and helped local artisans create textile panels, hats and sandals with solar powered LED light and some solar bags designed to store electricity, that can be used to sell energy for 5 pesos a minute to passersby who may then charge their cell phones.

Nonny de la Peña made the first VR documentary, Hunger in Los Angeles, in 2012, and founded Emblematic, a company producing immersive works. She combines journalism, social activism and virtual reality.

Miwa Matreyek began making complex drawn animations, which have now evolved into live performances in which she incorporates her own shadow. She also works in a collaborative group, Cloud Eye Control, utilizing video mapping and specially designed sculptural sets.

In the early 1970s, Nina Sobell worked with Dr. M. Barry Sterman, a doctor who had developed a way to monitor types of brain waves (alpha, beta, etc.); Nina paired couples to see whether they could “sync” their meditative states. Images of the resultant graph of their combined brain waves were superimposed over video portraits, resulting in Sobell’s “brain wave drawings.”

Another violinist scores hits with specially built electronic processing equipment! Laurie Anderson was NASA’s first artist-in-residence and produced a touring performance, “The End of the Moon” In 2004. Her installation Habeus Corpus involved the story of Mohammed el Gharani, the youngest detainee at Guantanamo Bay prison.

Wearing her MIDI processors, Pamela Z records live samples of her own voice that she then loops and triggers with gesture, creating compelling layered compositions. She has composed large-scale, operatic projects and installations employing video and set pieces.

Micha Cardenas’s project, “Becoming Dragon,” documented her process of changing gender while competing her MFA degree. She is a faculty member of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences at the University of Washington, Bothell. In 2018, Cárdenas delivered a keynote speech, “Poetic Operations: Algorithmic Analysis for Trans of Color Poetics” that is part of a forthcoming book in which she uses algorithms to learn from digital media art by and about trans people of color.

Of Ngāpuhi descent, Lisa Reihana represented New Zealand and created a large scale video installation for the 2017 Venice Biennale using a wallpaper-like backdrop with live-action figures re-enacting violent key events in the history of South Sea colonization.

Allequere Sandy Stone had gender reassignment therapy in 1974 and joined the feminist Olivia Records collective as recording engineer. She is a self-taught computer engineer and coder; her essay “The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto” was key in her academic work, and in 1993 she established a New Media program she named ACTLab (Advanced Communication Technologies Laboratory) in the Radio-Television-Film department of the University of Texas at Austin. Her pedagogical model has been adopted by many other programs, including the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the New Media Innovation Lab at Arizona State University, Tempe.

Margarete Jahrmann is Professor of Game Art and Game Design at Zurich University of the Arts, where she explores what she has characterized as the LUDIC METHOD, in which “life itself serves as optimum game engine, especially in its bodily qualities,” and scientific experiments in public performances and the mis-en-scène of discourse and science, in short play as art.

Suzon Fuks was inspired to create the Waterwheel site after she relocated to Australia. The site hosts and archives networked events examining our uses and abuses of this precious natural commodity.

Laura Poitras won an Oscar for best documentary for her film CITIZENFOUR, about Edward Snowden and his release of NSA materials.

She also works with Field of Vision to sponsor other documentaries.
a cyberformance space created through funding from a science art initiative in Aotearoa/New Zealand – originally a collaboration by the collective avatar body collision and digital artist Douglas Bagnall. Launched in 2004 the live online venue has been site for individual projects, festivals of cyberformance, and the cyposium. UpStage continues to be developed by groups of tertiary students in Aotearoa and a developer community lead by Paul Rorhlach.
The Colliders are Helen Varley Jamieson, Karla Ptacek, Leena Saarinen and Vicki Smith who met online in 2001 and formed the globally distributed cyberformance troupe Avatar Body Collision in 2002.

Until 2007 they collaborated via the internet on the creation and presenation of 10 cyberformances, and developed a significant body of research and experimentation around this new form of live, interactive, digital theatre, including the development of UpStage

Sharon Daniel produces interactive and participatory documentaries focused on issues of social, economic, environmental and criminal justice. Detailed descriptions and links to these works can be found at
Ariel Dougherty as development director at Women’s Studio Workshop (Rosendale, NY) in 1984 initiated T.A.R.T.S/Teaching Artists to Reach Technological Savvy, a network among four women’s cultural organizations. The Woman’s Building, The Center for) Women & Their Work, Women Make Movies and WSW received training and computers from Apple (Computer). The computers were used both administratively and artistically, and each organization had their first email account.
International VIDEOLETTERS was a bi-monthly video exchange among first 6, then 14 women’s communities across the US with some international input. It evolved out of two women’s film & video conference in 1975 and lasted for two years on a purely voluntary, unfunded basis. A link at the above link leads to a paper that names the groups involved and where current known tapes exist.
Early pioneer of interactive installations using computer vision. Works include “Text Rain” 1999 with Romy Achituv, and “Untitled 5” – Transmediale prize winner in 2005. More recent work has been architecturally integrated public works. Utterback was awarded a MacArthur fellowship “genius” award in 2009.
Legacy Russell – Founding theorist, Glitch Feminism
ArtFem.TV is an online television programming presenting Art and Feminism. The aim of ArtFem.TV is to foster Women in the Arts, their art works and projects, to create an international online television screen for the creativity, images and voices of Women. ArtFem.TV is a non-profit artist run ITV and media art portal about Art and Feminism and has been founded in the year 2008.
For inquiries please contact foundress, curator and editor Evelin Stermitz.

Tamiko Thiel’s first artwork was the visual form for Danny Hillis’ “Connection Machine CM-1/CM-2,” the first commercial artificial intelligence supercomputer and in 1989 the fastest computer in the world. It strongly influenced Steve Job’s sense of the power of visual design, and a CM-2 is now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. She began working with virtual reality (VR) in 1994 as creative director/producer of “Starbright World,” the first online multi-user virtual playspace for children (with Steven Spielberg, Starbright Foundation chairman). Her VR large screen interactive projections “Beyond Manzanar” (2000, with Zara Houshmand), “Travels of Mariko Horo” (2006) and “Virtuelle Mauer / ReConstructing the Wall” (2008, with Teresa Reuter) are pioneering works in using VR to address political events, and social and cultural issues. A founding member of artist group Manifest.AR, she participated in their path-breaking guerrilla augmented reality intervention at MoMA NY in 2010, and was main curator/organizer of their intervention at the 2011 Venice Biennial. This led to official participation in the Istanbul Biennale and many other commissions for museums and festivals worldwide, most recently a commission from the Whitney Museum NY for “Unexpected Growth” (with /p), addressing ocean-borne plastic waste and coral bleaching.

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