Erin Gee is a Canadian artist who explores human voices in electronic bodies, articulating feminist-materialist strategies for digital art. Known for her works in choral composition, virtual reality, robotics, and interactive art, Gee’s work has been exhibited and performed recently at Ars Electronica, Linz (2018), NRW Forum, Düsseldorf (2018), Trinity Square Video, Toronto (2017), MediaLive Festival at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, USA (2017), and Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2015).
Since 2012, Gee has developed her own open-source tools for human biodata collection and affective interface design. She uses art as a means of exposing the material of emotion as embodied and embedded, likening the microrhythms of emotional data to the rhythms of a vibrating vocal fold, and speaking to the hidden or obscured material and technical processes that enable human communication. She was an invited research associate at the University of Maine, USA (2018) in the department of chemical and biomedical engineering. In the same year Gee was resident at IEM Graz, where she developed processes for “embodied algorithmicity” in music. She is currently artist in residence at Locus Sonus (École superieure d’art Aix en Provence, France).
Gee’s research in physiological markers of emotion has been noted by Scientific American, VICE, MusicWorks, Canadian Art magazine, and the National Post, among others. Images and analysis of her work are also included in Jennifer Rhee’s book The Robotic Imaginary: The Human and the Price of Dehumanized Labor (University of Minnesota Press, 2018).
Gee has published academic work in Leonardo Music (2013) as well as eContact! Journal of Canadian electroacoustic community (2010). Gee is also the creator of futurefemmes, an online blog archived by Cornell University featuring interviews, showcased work and links to relevant articles on the topic of women working in technological culture.
Gee has received awards from the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Conseil des arts et lettres du Québec, as well as support from the Conseil des Arts de Montreal, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Saskatchewan Arts Board. She is grateful for their continued support of the arts.
Gee is represented by OUTPUT (Shanghai), Perte de Signal (Montreal) and RadianceVR (Berlin).
Notes on my Practice
I am an artist who explores technological cultures through the metaphor of human voices in electronic bodies ….and electronic voices in human bodies.
This practice is very embodied and personal, and deeply values the materials of the human body and voice as reflected through tender, vulnerable, or sometimes limited technologies such as microcontrollers, fragile robotics, or custom biosensors. I am influenced by my early exposure to vocal training and singing in classical style as a form of highly embodied technique that exposed my human body as the musical instrument/object to work upon, and also romantic channel for emotional/vocal outpouring. I feel kinship with technological materialities of new media in the same ways I intimately understand the materiality and processes that undergo vocalization and singing. I also understand the human body to be an already amazing and advanced communications system in concert with other amplifying, processing, and extending technologies. Our voices allow us to be greater than ourselves, and to exist in spaces between our physical bodies through vibration.
Inspired by these technologies of voice, vibration and language, I create alternative technologies for the human body to inhabit in order to both understand our current human-technological entanglement, and also to enact speculative imaginings for embodied and sensory-emotional knowledge. I use media art to embrace the intimate uncanny of disembodied and extended voices, exploring technological materiality in surprising ways that are sometimes delightful, sometimes cynical, never insincere.
As originally posited by Donna Haraway in her 1989 Cyborg Manifesto, the political possibility in the cyborg lay not in a comfortable technological fetishization of technology, which reifies systems of normative power, but through a critical rejection of the origin of the human. Historically, which bodies are deemed as fully, partially or ambiguously human has been an expression of shifting politics and agencies more than biological fact—women, people of color, and those deemed atypical in neurological functioning or physical capability have all suffered historically under categories of the “human” and “humane” as that which determines reasonable agency and accommodation in society. In light of these historical factors, my exploration of technology enacts a feminist perversion of human narcissism in machinic coupling, wherein I use sonic structures as a playground for proposing systems where anti-oppressive values of democracy, listening, and empathy are emphasized. O/Au/ral communication methods create unique space for interactivity, noisy dissent, play, experimentation, and articulation of identity that resonates across real and virtual space, and thus provides a guiding force in technological work that extends beyond merely sounding media.