Gender, Robots and Tactility
Llwyd’s work is equally built upon a tension in the current human condition. By recording texture through a format in which texture is removed, she presents a response to the increasing vacuum in tactile interaction, which describes the socialisation and design of the human condition in the twenty-first century.
An influx of materialism, manufactured by the expanse of technological advancement and globalisation is represented in the abundance of textural representation in her work. An unavoidable commentary on sexuality and gender, the concepts of pink and fur exist in a specific locus, which is historically loaded at the intersection of gendered and class connotations. Her work draws out the political, social and particularly, gendered context of our current state, by unravelling our relationship to the locus of ‘pink’ ‘fur’. Both pink and fur have a shifting status that the video traces. While fur has fallen from grace, pink has re-emerged with fervour as interconnected with gendered millennialism.
The politic of fur, as an item of luxury and desire, is referenced in the found footage of a model parading a knee length fur for the pleasure of the viewer. The intermingling of skin and fur, as her body, stripped hairless to perform within the heteronormative constructs of desire is layered over by the excessive hair of another animal. The complex relationship of want and revulsion and its specific relationship to the female gender is reinforced, as the screen flickers to represent the plastic disposable razor trailing across an exposed armpit. The imagery is shadowed by its natural relationship to perversion, fakery, death as a material of capitalism. Within the artist’s work this is acknowledged as fluffy animals flit to dead carcasses. However, ultimately, the cross-reference of commodification of the female, frivolity, capitalism and excess place the two combined terms, undeniably as ‘girl.’.
This is significant as Llwyd’s commentary on the material illustrates the current state of human condition as caught between hyper materialism and digital cyborgian. The materiality of the work, the untouchable texture, illustrates the increasing absence of said textural in a screen orientated society. This tension is deepened by how the moving images function. When we observe a video, our mirror neurons replicate the emotional and physical experience of the digital situation, unable to thoroughly between the sensorial and the representational. Therefore, as a woman strokes the lavish down of a mink coat, or a woman provocatively caresses the swollen skin of beneath her lovers hair-coated chin, though, we are not having this experience, but some stirring nervous level our body, believes that we are. Throughout the video, as the sound becomes higher, more intense and the string of images expand and dissolve on screen; the petting of the dogs, the shaving of skin, the manipulation of a pink furry ball, all exist as occurring to us.
As such, by occupying a space between digital and bodily physicality, her work foreshadows the Internal/external interface of artificial intelligence, the digital and the impact it will have on our existence; it is an exploration of the grey area in our experiential reality created by the increasingly cyborgian reality of our lives. The importance of the use of this specific material, ‘pink fur’, in the context of the twenty first century, is that it reiterates the robotic and the technological as not a gender neutral space. Created by a patriarchal society, her reflection on these two specific material qualities which are linked to the ‘feminine’ and the ‘girl’, draws out the gendered and sexualised content of the media she has collected and self-produced. Connectedly, as touch is digitised, it remains a gendered, sexually charged and a consumerist tool for patriarchal and capitalist society.
This highlights the inequality in the advancements of technology and touch as the Material, which has always been gendered and used for sexual deflection, becomes digital. As Donna Harraway has explored in her treatise on Cyborgian identity, the advancement into the digital era of "women's situation in the advanced technological conditions of postmodern life in the First World.”, the creation of digital demands an intense examination and reformation of how we discuss female identity. Most notably, for understanding the cultural significance for Llwyd’s discussion of ‘girliness’ and tactility, are the attempts to replicate, objectify and capitalise on female touch, tactility and sexuality, through the creation of female cyborgs, sex robots and even, the domination of female-signifying personalities in the creation of AI. Far from a Utopian society, Llwyd’s work iterates the human ability to reflect into the material constructs of a culture, the biases, prejudices, and in this instance gender inequalities, which define it.
Emily Hartless (2018)
Emily Hartless has produced exhibitions, talks, workshops and performances for Chapter Arts Centre, G39, Somerset House, Courtauld Gallery, London Design Festival, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Museum of Cardiff, the Design Museum and Theatre Mwldan. She has a BA in History of Art (Courtauld Institute of Art) and an MA in History of Design (V&A and RCA).