Giving a [email protected]*%: Forms of Feminism in Response to Riot Grrrls

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This evening, SAIC's Virtual Installation class premieres their end-of-term project, the Riot Grrrls App, a virtual response to the history of the Riot Grrls movement and the exhibition currently on view at the MCA. Read about the ideas behind each augmentation below and then explore their new reality IRL by downloading the app and visiting the exhibition before it closes June 18.


Screenshot of the augmentation of Ellen Burkenblit’s Love Letter to a Violet, 2015, in the Riot Grrrls App Courtesy of Christina Chin


Rendering of the augmentation of Ellen Burkenblit’s Love Letter to a Violet, 2015 Courtesy of Christina Chin

on love letter to a violet augment

The goal for my AR is to respond to the sexist atmosphere of the art world and also of aspects of this exhibition! My AR uses the context behind Ellen Burkenblit’s Love Letter to a Violet to reveal a deeper meaning. I am adding to this painting a series of women who are fighting their hardest, yet still are unable to break out of the realm of sexism. The images shown are appropriated from Hollywood films to match the pop art style of the painting and to reference how women are represented in the media. The audio I chose to use in my augment is of women throughout history, including political figures like Hillary Clinton, who have chosen to speak out against sexism in its many forms. These are all layered on top of each other to create a kind of cacophony, which is meant to elicit frustration and be overwhelming to viewers—giving them a small sense of how most women artists feel.

—Christina Chin


Amy Feldman, Heavy Vector, 2013. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, restricted gift of the Andree Stone Emerging Artist Prize, Richard Gray Gallery, Roberta Kramer, and Emerge. © 2013 Amy Feldman Photo: Nathan Keay © MCA Chicago

gif of ar for amy feldman

on amy feldman’s heavy vector augment

I augmented Amy Feldman’s Heavy Vector, 2013. The goal for my AR is to create something I have never seen or experienced before and that I hope triggers some sort of inspiration in others to create something where their own voice is also uniquely stylized. The overarching idea behind my AR is that there is no premeditation. It is all based on intuition and improvisation: what feels right at the moment of creation. That’s what zombie abstraction means to me; throwing logic out the window and naturally working through the subconscious mind. I have zero expectations for a user’s reaction. They don’t have to understand what it means, but I know they will enjoy it because I enjoyed making it!

—Rafael Rivas



Mary Heilmann, Metropolitan, 1999. Oil on canvas; 75 x 60 in. (190.5 x 152.5 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin by exchange, 2012.13. © 1999 Mary Heilmann Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

on the Mary Heilmann augment

The goal for my augmented piece is to expand on the painting by rechanneling it as information, layer upon layer. I wanted to add time elements to static 2D images, and give them an organic sense of life. I am attempting to illustrate new ways of defining an exhibition, and hopefully even change the viewing behavior of exhibition goers. Mary Heilmann’s paintings are conceptually two-dimensional sculpture, confirmed by the objects and installations that she sometimes makes. Extending her method, I created 2D sculptures (2D representations of sculptures) based on a photograph of her painting. I want viewers to see the workings of my mind, thereby turning her painting into a kind of living creature, growing and expanding and evolving before their eyes.

—Beier Zong

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Rendering of the augmentation of Mary Heilmann’s Metropolitan, 1999 Courtesy of Beier Zong

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Jackie Saccoccio, Portrait (Stubborn), 2013. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, restricted gift of Emerge. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago


on the augment of Jackie Saccoccio’s Portrait Stubborn

The hand-drawn animation augment that I created for Jackie Saccoccio’s painting Portrait (Stubborn) was inspired by the blotches of paint and different media seen in the work. I broke each blotch into different sections, organized by color, and then turned those sections into a representational landscape to evoke the spirit of the abstracted landscape that Saccoccio created in her painting. Using the abstract environment of Saccoccio’s work as my media, my aim was to convey the story of Lilith, who was demonized for refusing to let Adam dominate her. In my animation, Lilith sheds the layers of monstrosity that were put upon her as punishment. She ultimately accepts a snake, a representation of her sensuality and independence, and turns into the self-fulfilled woman she was meant to be. Lilith is viewed as the original feminist, and it only seemed appropriate to honor her in the this all-female group exhibition, named after the iconic Riot Grrrls.

—Jay Thakkar



on the augment of Joyce Pensato’s mural

I'm interested in how AR provides a space for presenting and understanding the liminal. In my work I explore the spiritual, the supernatural, and the ecstatic experience. AR is an elusive hybrid-space that allows the viewer to experience the liminal in a tangible, physical way. I'm interested in creating an experience for the viewer that temporarily suspends concrete reality and opens the possibility for imagining another realm. I'm also interested in how viewers change their posture and become subconscious performed bodies when using AR; in my video installation work outside AR I explore ways in which the viewer's body can engage with a moving image and how their physical experience changes depending on the size, location, and shape of the moving image. AR provides limitless options for proposing these kinds of altered physical experiences of a moving image.

—Cassandra Davis



Ree Morton, One of the Beaux Paintings (#4), 1975. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Pritzker Traubert Visionary Art Acquisition Fund

on the augment of Ree Morton’s one of the beaux paintings

I began this work with a deep research into Ree Morton’s work. I discovered her old sketchbooks and found it astonishing and disheartening that the questions she was asking and the concerns she had as a woman artist in the 1970s are still an issue today. Even after 45 years, we’re still having the same conversation! In response to this, I created videos of endlessly washing and peeling apples to suggest the constant brainwashing and expectations to conform to gender norms, that society and the media impose on women. Additionally, in the Korean culture, when a young woman prepared apples—as in my piece—for her elders or guests, she might be complimented by being told what “good housewife” material she is, as if that was her ultimate goal and all she might ever attain. My goal for this AR is to acknowledge the subliminal messages of gender norms by sending that message back in the form of a scrolling text in the spirit of Jenny Holzer. We are all more than our signifiers and the expectations placed on us and must no longer shy away from putting ourselves in an assertive place.

—Jasmin Han

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Joyce Pensato, Silver Batman II, 2012. Enamel on linen; 72 ¼ x 64 x 2 in. (183.5 x 162.6 x 5 cm). PG2012.3. © 2012 Joyce Pensato Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago


Screenshot of the augment of Joyce Pensato’s Silver Batman II, 2012 Courtesy of Claire Cantor

on the augment of Joyce Pensato’s Silver Batman

The goal for my piece is not just to show the Joyce Pensato painting that I am augmenting from a different perspective, but also to bring to light a different media, and a new subculture, as radical as the Riot Grrrls were in their own day: the genre of digital media art, in this case Augmented Reality. The idea behind my piece is to connect the 2D to the 3D and to further push Pensato’s exploration of the darker side of pop culture in her painting Silver Batman II. I want to let my viewers see things from a different perspective, to put them into a different psychological space. I'd like the viewer to see this work as a new version of a contemporary painting. I am revealing a new kind of digital space behind the painting, a future on the way to revealing itself.


—Claire Cantor



Tomma Abts, Dele, 2014. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Marshall Field’s by exchange. Photo: Marcus Leith

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Rendering of the augment for Tomma Abts’s Dele, 2014 Courtesy of Jonatan Martinez

on the augment of Tomma Abts’s Dele

To create augments means to forge new ground. Augmenting reality allows a viewer to look at art and history layered with the present and in so doing shows us a way to move forward. When we embrace AR and new mediums, we are able to look into the future of our world. It is very important that the MCA is open to new technologies.

At this moment, such actions are transformative for art and art institutions. Art institutions and the art establishment are currently going through a rapid change. Change is not usually facilitated by institutions, who are usually willing to go with the flow of artistic creation and of society at large. I am really grateful that there at least are a few institutions that are willing to shake their own foundations in order to continue to grow.

This kind of idealism is related to the ideals that the Riot Grrrls had in mind: to shake the current order to make way for cultural, social, political and human growth. “Brash, bold, and unafraid to take space,” is written in the wall text for the Riot Grrrls exhibition we are working with. So my particular intention for Tomma Abts’s work is to literally take up a lot of space! I explode her painting into space and, in my mind, give new life to the institution. I hope visitors can feel a sense of excitement and inquiry when viewing the augment, and spend more time in the exhibition. I want them to be aware of women artists. To see the potential of new media. To look at art through a different lens. And most importantly, to feel their own inner Riot Grrrl!


—Jonatan Martinez


Rendering of the augment for Tomma Abts’s Dele, 2014 Courtesy of Jonatan Martinez


Bright yellow organic shapes with black triangles of varying sizes appear in the foreground of this painting, while red streaks and smeared handprints appear in the background.
Charline von Heyl, Alastor, 2008. Acrylic on linen; 82 1/8 x 78 1/8 x 1 5/8 in. (208.6 x 198.4 x 4.1 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin by exchange, 2012.116. © 2008 Charline von Heyl Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago


on the augment of Charline von Heyl’s Alastor

Under late capitalism the world is becoming increasingly digitized. We find ourselves transforming into algorithms while still being taught to remain binary.

My work is an attempt to view the subject as a hybrid of machine and organism. To explore how we can become cyborgs—a creation of imagination and experienced societal reality—rewritten in feminist terms, to project an alternative model of gender subjectivity placed in a post-gender society. In my work, the birth of this new, radical subject in the form of a powerful avatar, integrates both maternal and paternal metaphors into its matrix and has the ability, via its cyberflesh, to help trans and queer bodies reclaim the power of their own existences.

Of course, these techno-utopian expectations haven’t become our reality yet. A queer utopia can only exist in the matrix of the digital world, but the real and virtual worlds are dependent on one another and the boundary between them has been rendered increasingly unstable.

Is this digital space capable of overcoming the material world? Is the digital mirror a distortion of our reality or an accurate reflection of an absolutely warped experience?

My work creates a fragmented universe, where the boundaries between cyberspace and meatspace are completely smashed and then reassembled into a wild new coherent order, creating unmediated access to hybrid ‘’catharsis.” Donna Haraway prefers being a Cyborg to a goddess. But what would happen if we all became Cyborg goddesses? In fact, does catharsis even exist for queers?

—Mackenzie Krueger


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Judy Ledgerwood, Sailors See Green, 2013. Oil and metallic oil on canvas; 96 1/8 x 78 1/16 in. (249.2 x 198.3 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Katherine S. Schamberg by exchange 2014.3. © 2013 Judy Ledgerwood Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago


on the augment of Judy Ledgerwood’s Sailors See Green

For this project I approached augmented reality as the process of giving a mediated makeover to both an historical object and the context in which that object exists. In my case, that object is the painting Sailors See Green (2013) by Judy Ledgerwood, which exists in the context of the white wall of the MCA, feminist history (both art and generally), and the nineties punk collective Riot Grrrls (who do not have a place on the wall of said museum!), among other things. My intention was to identify, break down, and express the many issues and concerns encountered by my Virtual Installation class as a whole, and also by me personally—as a male artist—while developing and executing this exhibition app.


Rendering of the augment of Judy Ledgerwood’s Sailors See Green, 2013 Courtesy of Alex Mendoza


Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, Hedda Gabler, 2011. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Bernice and Kenneth Newberger Fund. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago


Screenshot of the augment of Molly Zuckerman-Hartung’s Hedda Gabler, 2011, in the Riot Grrrls App Courtesy of Francesca Udeschini

on the augment of Molly Zuckerman-Hartung’s Hedda Gabler

The inspiration for my augment stems from Molly Zuckerman-Hartung’s unique historical connection to the Riot Grrrls. She is the sole artist in the exhibition who was actually part of their culture!

The grayscale palette of the piece, its graffiti elements, its tin foil and push pins—to me, all of it points towards the assemblage aesthetic of the Riot Grrrls’ zines. After looking at many examples of these zines and others, I started thinking about DIY methods of distributing printed materials and screen printing, and how it relates to band and concert posters. From there, I thought it would be interesting to take the graphic elements of these paper-based, analogue methods and combine them with the entirely digital technology of augmented reality.

My augment consists of a digital transformation of the original painting into a black-and-white bitmap, as though the image were being prepared for screen printing. Using alpha channels, the dots are transformed into transparent sections, so that the original painting can shine through. The movement of the dots creates a rhythmic, almost psychedelic pattern that offers a different kind of abstraction over the original, abstract painting.

The beauty of augmented reality is that, in its overlay of virtual image, something entirely new is created. It is a process that combines continuity and change, thus offering a possibility for transformation.

—Francesca Udeschini