Artist Profile – Addie Wagenknecht

Published on 2018-09-05

Artwork featured in the salon – 'Believe Me' Commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art for its artport website (2018) (Screenshot courtesy of the artist)

Addie Wagenknecht’s art examining technology, feminism, surveillance, and social norms has appeared in the Whitney Museum of American Art, MuseumsQuartier, La Gaîté Lyrique, The Istanbul Modern, Whitechapel Gallery, and MU. But she doesn’t hole up in the studio. The graduate of NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program cofounded open-source hardware collaborative NORTD Labs to launch an accessible laser printer; she co-created feminist tech collective Deep Lab to organize residencies and research; she was a member of the Free Art & Technology (F.A.T.) Lab; she’s chaired the Open Hardware Summit at MIT. 

And whether she’s bejeweling modems to look like Paris Hilton’s RAZR, painting with drones, or making vases out of 3D-printed guns, her work reflects her energy and her engagement in the everyday world created by tech. 

Gender and sexuality are ongoing themes in her work. In Webcam Venus (2013), she and collaborator Pablo Garcia probed the boundary between pornography and art by asking sexcam workers to pose in the style of famous paintings. Images of the laborers with screen names like “boobz_4_play,” “kimisquirtx,” and “frogmann” appeared alongside canonical pieces by Modigliani, Titian, and James McNeill Whistler, creating a commentary on class, culture, and identity online. In Alone Together (2017), she inverses Yves Klein’s “living paintbrushes” technique (in which he dipped nude women in paint) by programming a Roomba to paint around her own naked body. Klein produced stamps of tits and ass; Wagenknecht depicts the female form as an absence left unpainted. 

Whether she’s considering sex or geopolitics, Wagenknecht often illustrates bleak scenes that nevertheless leave room for cautious optimism and cynical humor. Her first U.S. solo show, at Bitforms Gallery, included ominous “portraits” made from custom circuit boards and ethernet cables as well as CCTV cameras that she made into personal, aesthetic objects with a coat of gold paint. “Almost anyone can document anything and the network copies it. Torrents become seeds and the data is no longer ours,” she says. “There is as much beauty as there is fear in that.”  

Believe me, commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art, takes its name from Donald Trump’s two most-used words (according to sociolinguist Jennifer Sclafani). The interactive piece displays a rotating lineup of images in what looks like a cracked screen on your browser. Sometimes they’re politically charged: Donald Trump, melting glaciers, a pile of prescription pills. Others are benign: a sunset, a rainbow, the expanse of outer space. Clicking on these images creates new “cracks” or triggers a frenzy of static, calling our screen-mediated interpretations of reality, conflict, and peace into question. 

Artist profile by Katheryn Thayer for The Current.

'Believe Me' is featured in 'The Current // Truth' curated by Tina Rivers Ryan from September 6 – 14th, 2018. Become a member of The Current to attend our private salons: http://current.mu/salons