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Hart is known for being an early user of 3D virtual imaging software. She has since made use of emerging virtual and augmented reality technologies. Despite her use of computer-generated imagery (CGI), Hart’s work always maintains a physical presence. Hart produces – in her own words, ‘real things’. These include: digitally enabled sculptures, projections on painted walls, and projections onto the human body. In her 2011 work, Recumulations, her use of motion-capture technology on digital bodies collapsed the boundary between fake and real, the virtual and the physical.
As a woman at the forefront of digital art, Hart’s work acts as a feminist disruption of traditionally male space. Her work departs from the traditionally male depictions of the virtual female. In Hart’s work, female digital-avatars are given sensual poetic qualities outside the male gaze. This cyber-feminism has been a feature of Hart’s work since the 1990s. The simulation technology that she began working with had its origins in the US Department of Defence, which had a culture Hart describes as, “militaristic and astonishingly misogynist”. Hart sought to subvert this culture with emotionally subjective pieces such as Machina (2004). Depicting a Rubenesque Odalisque, this series of animations, allows the nude to make randomised sensual movements. Rarely, the figure will open her eyes turning the female gaze back on the viewer.
Much of Hart’s work can be described as digital romanticism. Her digital art echoes back to the 19th-century movement, which in turn sought to look back to the classical forms of Ancient Greece. As the Romantic movement of the 19th century was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the Romantic movement in contemporary digital art acts as a response to our present technological revolution. Ophelia (2008) presents a floating nude aside from a polythene bag. Here Hart has juxtaposed a timeless, Romantic, female form, with a reminder of the fragility of our current epoch. As Hamlet’s drowned lover, Ophelia embodies the consequences of patriarchy, and by setting this figure alongside a scene of environmental damage, Hart demonstrates that the loss of the natural world is also a consequence of male power.
The idea of artistic reference is again present in her most recent work where Hart has been inspired by the painting of Henri Matisse. In her exhibition The Ruins (2020) Hart has created a looping series of animations, transforming Matisse’s red paintings into bold, and dynamic digital art. The title work consists of a 10 minute, three-channel animation, accompanied by a sound composition by Edward Campion. As the viewer proceeds through the gallery, Hart narrates texts that underpinned Utopian visions that ended in collapse: Thomas Jefferson on American liberty, the Bauhaus Manifesto, Fordlandia, and Jim Jones’s Open Door sermon. The gallery is designed as a labyrinth where game-style animations of copyright protected paintings by Matisse and Picasso are projected onto the walls. This exhibition represents a move away from a focus on digital forms, and instead undermines the nostalgia associated with traditional landscape scenes.