Sketchedspace curated and produced American digital media artist Petra Cortright’s first public art installation titled beutyfol girls xerox desert rose at Doota, Seoul on view from 1 Oct to 28 Oct, 2018. Exhibiting two new digital paintings alongside select screenshots from her explicit flash animations, Cortright sparks an unprecedented but timely discussion about females on the Internet with the Korean public.
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One of the leading post-internet artists, Cortright creates a site-specific installation utilizing Doota’s commercial nature and the surrounding urban landscape. Skinning the shop windows of Doota are her new digital paintings filled with California imagery such as palm trees and succulents in contrast to the hyper-futuristic backdrop of Seoul city center.
Her paintings originate as intricate Adobe Photoshop files which consist of layers of digital brush strokes and altered photographs. These files can be transformed indefinitely—layers can be turned on or off, reordered, repositioned, and various effects applied, so at moments which she calls “decisive,” the artist prints, and therefore immobilizes them.
Carefully interspersed throughout the main courtyard are seventeen flags, each standing 4-meters tall and presenting images from three flash animations in her archive. Her choice of flags as both a print medium and sculptural form comes from an understanding of their nature as vessels capable of accruing and externalizing ever evolving and often contradictory sets of ideas and experiences.
The flash animations feature strippers that Cortright screen-captured from a PC program called Virtuagirl, in which users can purchase strippers that dance when the computer goes into screensaver mode. Understandably, Cortright’s choice for the content reproduced in forms of flags may ring controversial as public art installation, but the choice is central to her body of work.
In reaction to this, Cortright utilizes her work and her digital expertise to assert a unique and specific conception of femininity. She appropriates the very tropes that traditional, male-dominated systems have used to label the other sex and to perpetuate gender inequalities, i.e. women in provocative positions and attire, flowers, feminine color tones, etc.
A large portion of conversations on the Internet questions the place of women within the digital ecosystem, both as consumers and as creators. One particularly volatile area concerns the digital representation of the female body, especially in the context of a male gaze that has historically been more powerful than that of its counterpart.
Additionally, tech-savviness —in depth knowledge of internet-based systems or the mastery of computer software— has traditionally been a masculine achievement in the American context; women and their ideas are heavily underrepresented in fields that concern computer hardware and software, the Internet, and video gaming. The two are likely related and self-enforcing.