Rhonda Holberton

A Body Without Borders

Date 4/1/19

Affiliation Artist, Assistant Professor of Digital Media at San Jose State University, Oakland

Abstract

Rhonda Holberton’s interdisciplinary art practice illuminates the politics of the corporeal body navigating through virtual space. In this presentation Holberton will discuss her recent projects utilizing networked VR designed to trigger subtle interactions of electrons between biological and digital systems, a speculative cosmetic company whose mission is focused on the potential of products to create distributed performative action, and collaborative image making with Neural Networks.

We are living through a crisis of reality. Recent elections across the globe revealed many people living in parallel, but rarely overlapping, realities. Today, ubiquitous screens mediate bodily experiences of the physical world. In turn, we are beginning to see digital content shaping material reality. Technologies to deliver Augmented & Virtual Reality (VR) will soon become as common as smartphones are itoday. At the same time, the material environment and physical bodies living within it are approaching a critical moment of climate-induced destabilization that can only be mitigated by collective action. If VR can create a situation in which the user's entire environment is determined by the creators of the virtual world, then it is imperative that the creators of digital worlds take into account the collective needs of the physical one.

The solutions to existential problems must come from existential analysis. Broadly speaking, the fields of design and engineering are really good at solving problems. These disciplines are rooted in the figuring out of ‘Can we’ and ‘How to.’ Great engineers can anticipate the ways a project could fail technically. Art on the other hand, is particularly good at asking questions; addressing what if rather than how to. Questions like; Should we? What are all the ways this project could cause failures in other places if it is successful? What are other Models? What does it look like if…? Great art expands the perimeter of the possible. Holberton’s work utilizes materials and platforms that physically connect human bodies through technology, highlighting they ways signals of digitally engineered worlds have physical ramifications; how the extraction of materials from the environment that support technology are destabilizing the plant; and how we might write better rules for digital platforms that consider the external effects on all bodies and respect the most vulnerable ones.


Bio

Rhonda Holberton holds an MFA from Stanford University (2012) and a BFA from CCA (2007). Her multimedia installations make use of digital and interactive technologies integrated into traditional methods of art production. In 2014 Holberton was a CAMAC Artist in Residence at Marnay-sur-Seine, France, and she was awarded a Fondation Ténot Fellowship, Paris. Her work is included in the collection of SFMoMA and the McEvoy Foundation and has been exhibited at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; Contemporary Jewish Museum (SF); Transfer Gallery (NYC), CULT | Aimee Friberg Exhibitions, FIFI Projects Mexico City; San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art; and the San Francisco Arts Commission. Holberton taught experimental media at Stanford University from 2015-2017 and is is currently Assistant Professor of Digital Media at San Jose State University . She lives and works in Oakland.

-- As of 4/1/19