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Behind-the-Scenes at Geek Girls

By Brooke Donnelly/ Visual Art
No Walls' Brooke Donnelly looks behind-the-scenes at Geek Girls to see how technology and art can be seamlessly interwoven.

The term geek girls is defined by urban dictionary as women who are smart and sassy and make ‘geek’ look sexy. But there is so much more to ‘geek girls’ than the idea of them looking sexy.

The assumption that women are not as accepted or trusted with a tech-based site is what led the Block curator and self-proclaimed geek, Rachael Parsons, to explore the intersection between geek culture and women.

When I caught up with Parsons at QUT’s The Block, she was excited to tell me of the Geek Girls exhibition and her experiences leading up to the event.

“We started more in traditional arts in things that were digital video practice and also computing practice… we really tried to stay at the forefront of those kinds of things,” she says.

Rachael Kirk

Creative Industries Precinct’s Rachael Parsons explains Geek Girls to Brooke Donnelly

As part of her own experience working in the creative sector, particularly as a curator, Parsons has been in situations where, as a female, she was not believed to be capable or trusted to work and install technology.

Parsons recalls approaching one of the artists Michaela Gleave who “was talking about going to do an installation and having people not think she could install her own work because it involved technology”.

Rachael

Rachael Parsons works with a Creative Industries Precinct technician to setup an artwork

These experiences paired with the disparity Parsons saw between the number of male and female artists that had been represented in the space, sparked the concept of the Geek Girls Exhibition.

Geek Girls, the exhibition

Geek Girls is an exhibition held in The Block at QUT Kelvin Grove, which exhibits works within the theme of geek culture from nine female artists.

No Walls Editor taking in QUT's Geek Girls exhibition

The Geek Girls exhibition

The Block’s walls and floors are all lined with power, data, and everything necessary to accommodate artworks incorporating a diverse range of technology. It’s an experimental institution that incorporates technology and artwork.

When I caught up with Parsons she introduced me to one of the artists, Meagan Streader, at the Geek Girls exhibit.

Geek Girls

Brooke Donnelly, Rachael Parsons and Meagan Streader at Geek Girls pre-opening

The Block was in the midst of being set up. It was a week before opening night. The site was in technical gestation. All the bits and pieces were being put together. Boxes clustered to the sides, some of the displays were flickering on and off, and the lighting grid was hanging low overhead. Walking in, Parsons clapped in joy as one of the artworks was being put together. It looked fantastic.

“It’s a good day when you get sent an artwork that involves technology and it works when you put it together,” she greets me.

As a part of the Geek Girls exhibition, Streader is displaying her piece, Response II (Corridor), an extension of an installation she displayed at Metro Arts, in Brisbane CBD.

Geek Girls exhibited nine female artist’s work, specifically, Alexandra Murray-Leslie, Tega Brain and Surya Mattu, Sarah van Sonsbeeck, Georgie Roxby-Smith, Lauren McCarthy, Antoinette J. Citizen, Soda_Jerk, Michaela Gleave, and Meagan Streader,

Each unique artwork incorporates the use of technology and builds on concepts of female misrepresentations and stereotypes.

Technology incorporated into the artworks of Geek Girls include interactive video, motors, optical glass, custom electronica, Wi-Fi routers, mobile applications, GTAV online intervention, Machinima, EMF (phone signal), and an iPod.

The girls bringing all the geek

Roxby-Smith’s work explores the representation of the female body in video games. Her work uses the female – bot representations found in Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto, taking short clips from these video games, which she describes, as moments of defeat, displaying violence against the female body.

roxby

Installation work by Georgie Roxby-Smith

Through her work Roxby-Smith aims to challenge the concept of female bots in cases where it is thought that they “run like a girl”, and offer an alternative representation where they say no.

These clips play repetitively on three separate televisions, alongside one another. Parson says, “Some of the female artists are heavily feminist in their approach [and this is an example of] a really avert theme.”

Citizen’s piece in the exhibition incorporates interactive video, where the attendees can fast forward, rewind or play a normal scene in a movie. The reel has over 300 hours of footage of various films combined together.

Through this work, Citizen is exploring the concept of how all films obey a specific set of requirements regarding length and live action.

Gleave’s Eclipse Machine (Retrograde Motion) uses two rotating prisms to depict the movements of cosmos as which she explains is a “constantly shifting series of spatiotemporal relationships.”

Meagan Streader and the power of light

Streader’s piece uses electroluminescent wire to create an immersive, spatial intervention piece. This piece was so captivating because her only medium being used was light. An element she is molding to manipulate and transform the participant’s sight and perception of space.

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Meagan Streader explains her work of art

“[I’m] going to encompass this space and the space behind,” she points to the bare corridor, “it’s going to be an immersive experience, people get to walk through and kind of interact on a physical level”.

A pile of electroluminescent wire lies behind her, waiting for her to start installing.

The first installation Streader did in 2010, for her QUT graduate show, was a light based work. The following year, she created an “interactive light installation” which, she describes as, “a little more problematic in terms of technology”.

“I created a work where people were directly involved in the creation of the installation through interaction, by having people put elements onto a wall to activate the lights that made up the work.”

In this circumstance there were thousands of components that she had to place together.

Streader explained that her attraction to artwork and the incorporation of technology started from a young age. She has always found the science fiction realms she can create through her artworks, by utilising space, more appealing than other mediums of art.

Megan Streader's work

Meagan Streader’s electroluminescent wire artwork

Light is an element Streader claims has “a sci-fi feel about it” and helps her grasp the concept of space. It is clear when tackling these overarching themes of space and light that Streader’s creative process involves a large amount of research and personal interest.

Her personal interest in space, and her history as a gamer, is incorporated into this artwork to express a broader message that society needs to break away from the idea of ‘fake geek girls’.

“On the Gamer Gate, women were working and writing about gaming and then were being targeted online. It was a really aggressive campaign against women. There was also a lot of stuff written about fake geek girls and how there could be this idea that women were pretending to be geeks to get attention,” Parsons says.

It is clear that Streader, and the other female artists participating in the Geek Girls exhibition, demonstrate the legitimacy of a “geek” girl. Through their works they are each subtly fighting back against those online attacks.