During this time of my life I taught at a well-known technical university, Carnegie Mellon University. There were a number of experiences there that changed the course of my life. One of them was trying to find a way to co-exist in the same 3-person area, with another faculty member, whose work involved the torture of women with machines. I was the first woman hired in an area overseeing computing in the School of Art, and was the only woman. This man went on to create one of the first, and most successful violent porn sites in history, where women were tortured in front of live audiences. According to an article, he made $29,000 per month for 7 years, before it was investigated by federal authorities at which point he decided to shut it down. The environment of violence that he generated at the university was supported by the administration, including the Provost and the President. I never could understand why. It impacted generations of students and faculty and events are still being carried out today. I wrote about it to try to understand it, years later.
I ended up making this piece during that time, as a response to my experience at Carnegie Mellon.
I created a simple machine I called a Sectioning Device, that was controlled by the input of users on the internet. In a sense it was a honey-pot to attract the violence explicitly so it could be seen outside the walls of academia, where it seemed to be being hidden. The device was designed to attach to the arm of a woman. It was made from a solenoid, (an electronic plunger), that had a biology blade attached to the end of it, (a small circular blade). If a user on the internet pressed a certain button on the site, theoretically, a section would be taken from the woman’s arm, causing her death.
The event occurred as a performance in a gallery in Maribor Slovenia. Invitations were sent out to universities where the highest level of technological research occurred including MIT and Carnegie Mellon University. The verbiage of the invitation was written like Wired Magazine and described a new device. When participants logged into the event, they were lead through a series of pages on the internet, where they eventually learned it was a female researcher, (this usually generated rage at Carnegie Mellon University). They then had the option of activating the device as part of the live event. But they also had to leave a comment, which was projected on the gallery wall.
In the gallery the device was merely sitting on a pedestal. As users activated the device, they did not know this. They thought it was a live person, a woman, at the other end.
As their comments flowed, the device could be heard turning on and off in response to their actions.