Drawing as Electronic Art

Herrera -
"Drawing is a connection between my brain and the world. And it helps me not panic. And it makes me laugh. And it surprises me."


"It doesn’t feel personal either. It’s more like my hands and my eyes are picking up on something out of the ether. Compared to writing especially, it’s as if I’m an antenna made of meat: Instead of making things up, or coming up with original ideas, it feels like I’m rooting around in the a-semiotic folds of reality. A little bit like the gaps existing between languages, or between media.
Drawing manages to inhabit those spaces and set up a direct channel to another territory entirely. It’s comfy with the parts of my brain that don’t speak. And it’s also comfy with stretching out into three-dimensional space.
Drawing is talking in raw bits that my hands can’t properly translate. When I was working on a small (~40 foot) graphite pencil mural… I didn’t plan any of it, I showed up every morning and figured, “hey, I’m pretty sure the wall knows what’s it’s talking about.” And it did. And the whole time I was thinking about algorithmic rules for generating stories and ball-bearings.”


"In a pragmatic sense, when I’m actually building a robot, I still find it easier to draw scaled-up drawings with chalk on the floor. I lay out my metal draw around it and then duct-tape on full-size cardboard models for moving limbs and so on. I know I should be used 3-d software and so on… but somehow I’m able to trouble-shoot many more problems if I draw every element out by hand. I want to know right away, working in a 1:1 scale, if things are going to get stuck or collapse. Then sketching turns into dimension diagrams, formulas and production notes.
Whenever I screw things up badly I draw my way out of the confusion.”

Beatriz Herrera - July Artist Feature


As for technological beasts balancing on the edge of their own destruction, Montreal-based artist Beatriz Herrera makes robotic sculptures that are chaotic, in a refreshingly dirty and beautiful manner.  Made exclusively from from hand-fashioned metals, often charred with fire and remnants of welding, her works hang gracefully and menacingly from the studio ceiling in Mile End, casting elaborate shadows into a metallic-gray scaled environment. In Herrera’s space, I recall thinking I had somehow wandered into a physical extension of an intensely creative mind (Reminding me of the artificial neural networks of Vanessa Yaremchuk).  Huddled on the floor, sandwiched between sheets of metal that dwarfed her and seemed to balance more than a bit precariously, Beatriz talks endlessly and happily with me about her newest engineering discoveries as well as impressively daring studio mishaps as she continues to explore combinations of drawing, metalwork, robotic locomotion and absurdist logic.
Herrera - ”I’ve been wondering lately whether I even fit into the cadre of technological art making.
"I realized, looking at my notes, my drawings, my plans… I’m working towards a kind of giant techno car crash between magical thinking and analysis. I used to joke that I felt like I was a retarded toddler smashing things together rather ineptly… I think that’s wrong. I’m not sure. It’s more like I’m building helpless little idols."
Luiza Prado: It started around 2010 for me, when I had (as in, there was no other option) to work in an art project about the opera Don Giovanni. If you ever read or watch that thing, it’s misogyny all over the place, it’s nauseating honestly.
futurefemmes: visit this link for an opera-based short article on Honor, shame, misogyny and chauvanism in Mediterranean society.
Prado: So since I was required to be part of that project, I decided to work out something that would discuss how the female characters were portrayed like empty, stupid stereotypes (the woman who cried rape, the crazy ex-girlfriend, the whore who wants a man for his money/power). It was a timid beginning and nowadays I would certainly make a heavier and more direct reference to the baffling misogyny in the opera, but it was my first platform for criticism. Pedro, who wrote the manifesto with me, was also in this opera project and we created Three Dresses out of our discussions about these things. 

Faith Holland, Net Art, & Feminism

More love for the first lady featured on futurefemmes, Faith Holland! ~*~*~*~*~*~*~


I started this post a while back and then put it on hold while moving, etc. I never “finished” it but didn’t want it to just rot away in my drafts since I really like Faith Holland’s work and if one person sees this blog and is exposed to her work then I’ll be happy. Also, since this is a blog and not an academic essay I’ve decided it’s okay to post unfinished pieces, so here goes. Seriously though, check out her website; I didn’t post any images because I didn’t want to do so without permission and I think her work is best experienced in its complete form so go look at it. Now.

Faith Holland received her BA in Media Studies from Vassar in 2007 producing, for her thesis, a series of black and white photographs that re-interpreted Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse (a favorite of mine) from a feminist perspective. Barthes’ book relies on the relationship of an active (masculine) lover to the passive (feminine) lovee.  In the essay accompanying Lovers’ Discourse: A Visual, Feminist Re-Interpretation of Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse, Holland cites parallel arguments to this including John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (men act and women appear”) and bell hooks’ All About Love (“even in non-heterosexual relationships, the paradigms of leader and follower often prevail, with one person assuming the role deemed feminine and another the designated masculine role.”) In representing the lovers (note that Holland pluralizes the title) visually, Holland attempts to show them as equal but different: “The intention is that the viewer is free to identify with either party—active or passive, if the lovers are both or either of those things—whereas Barthes’ language only leaves room to identify with the active, masculinized lover.”

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Luiza Prado: Speculative and Critical Design



A few months ago you posted a blog that articulately dissents with “speculative and critical design”, claiming the practice in fact to often be an exercise in privileged technological navel-gazing.  It’s pretty relative to technological circles, especially as designers ponder “what’s next” and want to be critical about the technological innovation and privilege that they engage in.  I know it went viral, but what was the response that you got back? 

Luiza Prado:

[I ask:] Is speculative and critical design really necessary? Does it really change anything, or is it just an exercise in privilege, an elitist platform for the precious sensibilities of the european/u.s. american middle/upper class?  I think that speculative and critical design does have a lot to offer, but it’s urgent that it takes a good hard look at itself first. The current format, with all its rampant unchecked privilege, its representation of futures where people of colour are virtually nonexistent, where couples are heterosexual, where everybody is cis, where gender is binary and the worst thing you can imagine is not to eat bluefin tuna for dinner… well, that’s not a speculative and critical design that I want to participate in.


(A quick google image search of “Designer” brings up the following) 

Prado: Of course there were people who disagreed with what we had to say, but the criticism we received has been mostly constructive. My personal impression is that our text perhaps managed to touch upon some issues in speculative and critical design that had been bothering many people (as evidenced by the comment thread that originally spawned our text @ MoMA’s Design and Violence website), but that nobody had written down yet.


While design is obviously supported and driven by the market as well as its institutions, more speculative and experimental work will be supported by research and universities. How do you think that institutions can address these concerns better?


I graduated from a university where design was seen as a way to make things more functional (in a very narrow understanding of what functional means), prettier (according to what standards?) or better (better according to whom?). Questioning was not something designers were encouraged to do - questioning was something that artists did within the safe confines of gallery spaces. And I believe that design is so much more powerful than that. In Brazil we still have a long way to go, but university programs like the one at UNESP give me a lot of hope.

Design needs urgently to stop being seen as a luxury, as something that can only be accessed by a few select people in the middle and upper classes. I’m not a big believer that the industry is capable of solving anything on its own - all the industry is about is making money, and social justice tends to get on the way of profit. I believe we need a more diverse set of people making things happen in speculative and critical design - latin americans like myself, people from outside of the “developed countries” circuit, gender-nonconforming people, non-hetero people, people who are willing to discuss social justice in the near future. Diversity is key: if you only have privileged voices in SCD you will never hear the other side.

I really admire Anab Jain from Superflux


i especially love her projects that focus on exploring the reality of her native India, dealing with issues like desertification or overpopulation. Sputniko’s work is also really inspiring, even though I don’t agree with her views on gender. The language she uses to communicate her speculative and critical projects is amazing though - i love how she takes speculative and critical design out of the sterile environment of museums, universities and galleries by using music videos and social media instead, and how she always focuses on empowering girls and women.
I’ve also recently found out about the awesome Allied Media Projects and the people behind it - Media Strategies for a more just and Creative World - precisely the kind of initiative we need more and more of!


I’m always on the lookout for projects that empower minorities. I’m not sure if these projects qualify as start-ups exactly - a start-up is a super capitalist concept, a small company that grows fast and makes big bucks quickly. The whole concept seems to revolve around making lots of money for founders and investors, so other things tend to get lost in the middle of this. Anyway, right now i’m super excited about Model View Culture - a media platform founded, built and managed by omwn, people of colour & trans folk.


They’re only just starting and I’m dying to buy a subscription to their magazine, but they don’t ship outside of the U.S. 
Also, some of my biggest inspirations come from the amazing people I’ve met on my journey as a feminist activist, the people who have taught me so much and helped me realise so many things.
futuremmes: More on Luiza Prado’s work to come!