Repetitive techno beats welcome the visitor entering Sidsel Meineche Hansen’s solo exhibition at Gasworks. ‘SECOND SEX WAR’, the latest product of a long-term conversation between the artist and the institution, includes three original commissions alongside existing works. The exhibition presents a composite mixture of techniques: woodcut print, CGI animation, sculpture, drawing and installation. As is often the case in Meineche Hansen’s practice, traditional artistic formats meet new materials and up-to-date technological experimentation.
The show’s rather confrontational visual apparatus sees the juxtaposition of pornographic images and more abstract pieces, like the clay relief ‘Cultural Capital Cooperative Object’, commissioned by Gasworks and realised by Meineche Hansen in cooperation with seven other artists. This work, an apparently dissonant element within the curatorial setup, is a reflection on the artist’s role in the institutional frame, and an experiment in the collective authorship and ownership of an intellectual product. Indeed, this porn-based exhibition is only the most recent outcome in Meineche Hansen’s ongoing research concerning issues of cultural labour, institutions, capital and power. ‘SECOND SEX WAR’ appears as a sharp analysis of the politics of ephemeral labour, using digital pornography as a case study and feminist critique as an investigative tool.
As the title recalls two significant moments in historical feminism – namely Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘Second Sex’ and the so-called Sex Wars, the ferocious debate about female sexuality and pornography shaking the second wave of feminism in the 70s and 80s – Meineche Hansen seems to pursue a new feminist critique of society, which not only overcomes gender binarism but also biology. In fact, the true protagonist of ‘SECOND SEX WAR’ is a post-human figure: Eva v3.0.
Eva v3.0 is a royalty-free 3D model available online, a hybrid element, which operates within the structure of market-driven capitalism both as goods and as value producer. A recurrent presence throughout the entire exhibition, the visitor first meets Eva v3.0 in the video animation ‘No right Way 2 Cum’, a shattering, ironic critique of the British Board of Film Classification’s recent ban on female ejaculation in UK porn industry, while her mutable sexuality is echoed in the laser-cut drawings on wood ‘iSlave (non-dualistic) and ‘Wannabe Dickgirl’. Eva v3.0 is also featured in a CGI animation, here presented in two distinct installation formats: ‘SECOND SEX WAR ZONE’ and ‘DICKGIRL 3D (X)’.
‘SECOND SEX WAR ZONE’ invites the visitor to lie on a vegan leather beanbag and to experience the 3D animation using an Oculus Rift headset. This expanded-reality construction projects the viewer into an altered world of chaotic imaginary; the spectator senses Eva v3.0’s reality through her own artificial eyes, while physically stuck in a (un-)comfortable position of passivity. In ‘DICKGIRL 3D (X)’ the digital animation is mounted in a do-it-yourself sado-masochistic structure, inspired by the work of artists Sheree Rose and Bob Flanagan. The video shows a hyper-sexualised version of Eva v3.0, obtained by adding genitalia props and sets normally used for animating sex scenes in digital porn. Once more, Meineche Hansen enters the mechanism, in order to criticise it and potentially demolish it from the inside.
The selection of works presented in ‘SECOND SEX WAR’ discusses and contests those dynamics of domination and submission typical in pornography and more broadly in society. More than a speculation on practices of commodification in the cyber-porn industry, this exhibition wants to renegotiate the role of the female subject/object in the current post-media era. The post-feminist and post-feminine Eva v3.0 aims to subvert the status quo.