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Detail of Kristen Sanders painting

Visit the Fembot online viewing room here

Aiste Stancikaite, Amy Brener, Andrea Nakhla, ANTN, Auriea Harvey, Bryant Girsch, Caitlin Cherry, Céline Ducrot, Eleni Christodolou, Emma Stern, Erika Jean Lincoln, Faith Holland, Jesper Just, Ji Zou, Jordan Homstad, Katie Hector, Kristen Sanders, Larissa De Jesus Negrón, Malwine Stauss, Matthew Stone, Maya Fuji, Nicole Ruggiero, Nicolette Mishkan, Nyasha Madamombe, Olive Allen, Sally Kindberg, Salomé Chatriot, Samantha Rosenwald, Serwah Attafuah, SiiGii and ThreeASFOUR.

The Hole is proud to present Fembot, our "house blend" yearly thematic group show. Fembot explores the intersection of technology and the female form, surveying the conceptual and aesthetic renderings of gender in the digital realm. With screens, sculpture, new media, mixed media and everything in between the representations of the female body are almost as vast as the internet, from futuristic robots to porous, sweaty flesh.

Perhaps every show I curate is about technology and women? Since my thesis 20-some years ago Cyberfeminism and the Techno-sublime which included Mariko Mori, which is how I first heard about Deitch Projects and Jeffrey's visionary show Post Human (1992!) and of course after reading How We Became Posthuman (1999) by N. Katherine Hayles and A Cyborg Manifesto (1985) by Donna Haraway, I was hooked on the idea that technology would transform contemporary art practice and feminism and society and lo, how it has (kinda) happened!

Ever since Roberta Smith (in her 2012 review of Wade Guyton at The Whitney Museum) said it was OK to print out your paintings, new media artmaking has expanded to include all manner of hybridization. I curated a lot of Post Analog Painting shows (2015, 2017, 2019) around that idea that new media was the new language for messaging. And even recent shows like Second Smile (2020) about feminism and Surrealism, Nature Morte (2021) about still life and climate catastrophe, Manscaping (2022) about landscape and gender, if you distill them down and swirl 'em around you pretty much get Fembot.

Legacy Russell's Glitch Feminism (2020) a crucial addition to the canon came out around the time we presented the first solo show here by Caitlin Cherry. Cherry's freestanding metal framed paintings, paintings on machine arms and giant gaming server/ museum racks installation in the back was deeply satisfying and the imagery within the paintings, Black femininity refracted through structures of digital commodification and her own digital manipulations, expanded my understanding of "cyberfeminism" and the potential it promised. Caitlin's work here Owen Grey is a gyroscopic metal frame supporting a supple wave-distorted painting of Black female performers.

Russell's idea of an online audience being ubiquitous in our performance of ourselves, performing our gender or sexuality or race; and the mandate to embrace the slippages and errors of the digital medium (the glitch) to subvert existing structures of power is central to young artists making work today. Fembot begins with a piece depicting just that ubiquity and obligation of performance by Jesper Just. Dancers from the Royal Danish Ballet are choreographed via MIDI file and electrodes into beautiful and somehow tragic poses. These unseen forces that control and manipulate our existence in the digital age run throughout the exhibition, and many works in the show address these invisible strings and try to cut free of them.

If you spend most of your life online and are trying to figure out who you are and your place in the world, this show is for you. Gender expression appears in Bryant Girsch's 3-D mapped "space elf" skin, and SiiGii's wonderfully simple sculpture I AM AWARE I AM WEARING MYSELF. Pleasure and porn present in the sensual painting above by Nicolette Mishkan or Faith Holland's Fetishes, not to mention the sexy abomination of Emma Stern's 3D printed and pearlescent Brooke. Aiste Stancikaite's finish-fetish figure, waiting patiently in the nude with only opera gloves, as well as Ji Zou's orgasmic Possession by Metal Demon show pleasure in the anticipation and consummation of digital obliteration.

Contrary to Donna Haraway's closing line, this exhibition contains many cyborg goddesses. Nicole Ruggiero, Serwah Attafuah and Olive Allen put forward virtual heroines in NFT form, while Nyasha Madamombe, Eleni Christodoulou and Malwine Stauss make sculptural figures of worship. Amy Brener's Flexi Shield (Earth Girl) armor hanging from the ceiling pairs perfectly with the warrior women in Salome Chatriot's or Samatha Rosenwald's work. The meeting of flesh and machine is depicted in Jordan Homstad's Construction, ANTN's painting and video as well as Kristen Sanders's barnacle-crusted littoral cyborg-on-the-beach, while the walls of the exhibition do the same with sheet metal and nude latex.

Realizing that I had this unseen thread to my decade of art exhibitions allowed me to paradoxically be more free and less controlling of this project, not only including the artist suggestions of my staff Charlotte Grussing, Jessica Gallucci, Laura O'Reilly and May Andersen, but also activating artists that I had no idea what they might make, opening the door to old and new works that were self-selected. So the "curation" is hopefully a much lighter touch, as I no longer feel the compulsion to illustrate an agenda with other people's output; embracing the noded network and decentralization, I feel closer to understanding what art curation is about.

-Kathy Grayson

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Image: Kristen Sanders, Shore/Self, 2023, Acrylic on canvas, 40 x 32 inches, 101 x 82 cm.