Faith Holland displays a bold artistic vision, where human sexuality meets digital technology
Euan McPherson | Ed Cristina Brooks | 1 December 2020
Faith Holland (b. 1985) is from Hudson Valley, New York. Her work explores the relationship between sexuality and technology. Holland is a burgeoning talent in the world of Digital Art. Incorporating digital elements, often video and animations, she also produces performance art, sculpture and painting.
Holland earned her first degree — a Bachelor of Arts: Media Studies with Honors – from Vassar College. This was followed by a Master of Fine Arts in Photography, Video and Related Media from the School of Visual Arts, New York City.
Holland combines her career as a digital artist with teaching at the Pratt Institute, where she is a Visiting Assistant Professor. Her current course — Time and Movement — teaches students the tools they need to choreograph digital content across platforms and outputs. The course covers animation, digital photography and videography, sound design and interactivity.
Faith Holland, Excess Machine: Or How to Make Your Computer Cum (2022) © Courtesy of the artist.
Artist, Title work (yyyy) © Courtesy of the artist.
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Having examined the intimacy that exists between humans and technology in Technophilia, Holland then turned her attention to exploring how technology can act as a metaphor for human experience. Speculative Fetish (2018) is an exhibition with two key works: Queer Connections exposes the heteronormativity inherent in the design of cables, which have “male” and “female” parts, necessary in order for them to connect. Holland presents a series of laser-cut prints depicting chains of cables with incompatible connectors, forced into a union through sculptural intervention. The connections are feminised with the application of bright nail polish at the point of contact. The Fetishes presents a series of digital devices playing an abstract video of human flesh taken from pornography. The screens of these devices are coated in pubic hair, fur or lubricant. The devices sit atop a display counter of makeup, wires and lipstick. The Fetishes highlights how digital devices have become objects of human erotic attention. By situating the devices above a counter display, Holland juxtaposes their status as intimate partners and hi-tech consumer products.
Wired Bath (2017)
Wire Bath from Faith Holland on Vimeo.
Faith Holland, Wire Bath (2017) © Courtesy of the artist.
Wire Bath (2017), a video and GIF triptych of Holland, lying in a bath and enacting a fantasy of being entwined in Ethernet cables, is another example of the wry quality present in much of Holland’s work. As the internet moves to cloud-based storage and wiring become a thing of the past, Holland’s piece attempts to act as a visual metaphor for the internet as it exists in the present. With the wires being submerged in bathwater, the work reflects on deep-sea location of the cables that carry digital information across oceans.
Shaving Cream on RedTube from Faith Holland on Vimeo.
Faith Holland, Porn Invention (2015) Video/Performance © Courtesy of the artist.
Porn Inventions (2015)
Holland often uses the digital world to subvert societal expectations of female sexuality. Her breakthrough performance piece, Porn Inventions (2015) used the ubiquity of internet pornography to confront viewers expecting highly sexualised erotic forms. Instead, they were presented with, in Holland’s own words, “…something strange, critical, and not very sexy.” For the piece, Holland uploaded a series of videos to the online pornography website RedTube. She used pornographic vernacular, e.g. “solo girl” in the video descriptions. Viewers clicking on the video would then be confronted with a recording of Holland shaving her legs. In undermining viewer expectations, Holland’s work acts as a reminder that the digital world of online pornography has warped conceptions of the female form. Holland’s performance work, like Porn Inventions, provides a critique of sexuality in the digital world but does so satirically.
Faith Holland, Technophilia – Visual Orgasms (Train erupting gif) (2015) Video/Animation. © Courtesy of the artist.
Sex lies at the heart of much of Holland’s oeuvre. Her 2015 solo exhibition Technophilia examined the connection between technology and pornography. Held at TRANSFER, New York City, Technophilia consisted of a vast array of looped images which playfully depicted the metaphors popular culture has used to depict human ejaculation. Examples of these included popcorn popping and space rockets taking off. The Hays Code introduced by film producers in 1930s Hollywood censored sexuality on screen. Directors, therefore, had to develop filmic metaphors to indicate to an audience that gratification had been achieved. Holland’s GIFs play with this idea by, “…creating excessive moving image collages that depict metaphors for orgasm with no actual depiction of sex.” Throughout Technophilia the viewer is asked to confront their intimacy with technology. Holland’s work reminds the viewer that while images on a screen may be what a user of pornography thinks they are lusting after, the reality is that they are interacting with a physical object, whether it is a phone, tablet, or computer. In Holland’s words: “I sleep inches away from my phone; it is the last thing I see at night and the first thing I see in the morning, regardless of who or what else is in my bed. I gently massage my laptop’s pressure points as I write this text. I caress screens throughout the day. I softly cup a mouse in my right hand as it grazes across my desk. This is the new intimacy.”
Faith Holland, Hard Soft (2020) Solo Exhibition at TRANSFER © Courtesy of the artist and TRANSFER
A series of projects that seek to explore the gendered expectations behind the words “soft” and “hard”. Soft Computing presents a series of plush dolls depicting technology. The Most Beautiful Dick Pics of All Time depicts the male member divorced from the human body and placed in a series of decorative designs — a commentary on the vulnerability of the phallus when decoupled from the body.
Holland has been the recipient of numerous awards and residencies.
- In 2016 she was the resident art at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning in Queens, New York City.
- In 2020 she was awarded the Pratt Institute Travel award.
2020, Touchscreen, L’Unique, Caen, France
2020, Hard/Soft, TRANSFER, Los Angeles, CA and the Internet
2020, Hard/Soft, TRANSFER, Spring Break Art Show, New York, NY
2018, Pixelated Desires, Artists’ Television Access, San Francisco, CA
2018, Body Devices, curated by Barbara Nino, Fotografisk Center, Copenhagen, Denmark and the Internet
2021, Digital Art Collection Edition #5, Galerie Eigenheim, in cooperation with medienkunstverein, Berlin, Germany
2021, The Rise of the Care Machines, curated by Wednesday Kim and Flavia Visconte, Juniin, Guayaquil, Ecuador
2020, The Archive to Come, curated by Clark Buckner and Carla Gannis, Telematic, San Francisco, CA and the Internet
2020, also tubes, Unrequited Leisure, Nashville, TN, US
2020, Life Hacks and Other Embodied Technologies, Telematic, San Francisco, CA, US