From "Colour Separation" (Mongrel, 1997)

Jennifer Gonzalez

"Skin Play: Visual Ethics and ''Race'' in Digital Art"

Date 10/14/13

Affiliation Professor, Art History, UC Santa Cruz


Even if "race" is a scientifically empty concept, ethnic differences and body type still play a significant role in the social and economic politics of our time. How have digital artists tried to work through the visual politics of racial identities? What is at stake in the "skin play" available to those who inhabit artificial worlds? How do such representations imply a certain ethics of social relation? In the 2009 essay "The Face and The Public: Race, Secrecy and Digital Art Practice " some of these questions are explored in the form of a critical response to theorists, such as Mark Hansen, who argue for the internet as a racially neutral domain. Contrasting Georgio Agamben's use of the "face" with that of Emannual Levinas, the essay argues in favor of a more historicized understanding of both race and ethics. For this talk the work of digital artists and forms of popular culture that experiment with "race" and "skin" will be read as important visual tropes for a larger politics of social justice.


Jennifer A. González teaches in the History of Art and Visual Culture department at the University of California, Santa Cruz and at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, New York. She has written for numerous periodicals including "Aztlán," "Frieze," "Bomb," "Camera Obscura," and "Art Journal." Her essays about cyborg bodies and racial embodiment in digital art can be found in anthologies like "The Cyborg Handbook" (1995) and "Race in Cyberspace" (2000). Her book "Subject to Display: Reframing Race in Contemporary Installation Art" (MIT Press, 2008) was a finalist for the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award.

-- As of 10/14/13

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