Women Artists Teaching Machines How To Dream …

Aliandra Busila  |  Ed: Clare Deal  |  14 June 2020

While preparing for the first DATA event with guest artists Gretchen Andrew and Penny Slinger, I kept returning to this question: how might a revision of the art history canon to include the importance of technology look? 

It would be a story of true subversion, free of woolly descriptors like critiquing, testing, provocation or resistance. Maybe it would subvert the idea of individual ownership of the works of imagination. It would perhaps replace the brick and mortar of institutions of culture with floating museums. And most importantly, it would be told as seen through personal encounters, pioneering dialogues, collaborative projects, and cultural exchanges. 

Penny Slinger, Don’t look at me, 1969/2014. C-print from original collage.  © Courtesy of the artist and Richard Saltoun Gallery
© Courtesy of the artist.

One such fascinating personal encounter is between artists Penny Slinger and Gretchen Andrew. When you get lost into their work you realise that they are both deeply preoccupied with how the human mind is hijacked or influenced by things that it doesn’t see or that are not immediately apparent. What we experience both through Penny’s collages and through Gretchen’s engineered live search results is a silent rebellion against pattern recognition. If their work unsettles us I suspect it’s because it reminds us of how it feels to dream wider, to think and choose freely.

Gretchen’s work will open your mind to a whole world of algorithmic oppression and especially to the gender data gap in which datasets are not only constantly under-representing women, but also misrepresenting them. Penny’s complex body of work will also be an eye-opener in that she similarly acknowledges and participates in the structures of power and prohibition she seeks to transgress and then operates from within to disrupt those very structures.  Positively insidious indeed.

Gretchen Andrew, Cover of Artforum, 2020. Sidewalk chalk, miniature disco balls, very small gold shoes on canvas.  © Courtesy of the artist and Gazelli Art House
Penny Slinger, still from An Exorcism revisited on digital film, 2019.  © Courtesy of the artist and Blum and Poe Gallery

I can’t wait to hear how they cope with the constantly evolving set of expectations regarding reputation, recognition and what is considered “creative”, but also how they cope with the art world’s gatekeepers, whose social approval governs these expectations. We can all learn from how their unpatronising audience-exchanges have nurtured their artistic communities.

So join us if you are curious about digital art’s potential to subvert rules, hierarchies and conventions or simply for the buzz of meeting two spellbinding artists in a virtual environment with a fireplace and everything.

© Courtesy of the artists.
Gretchen Andrew and Penny Slinger and Dhiren Dasu © Courtesy of the artists and Blum and Poe Gallery

About the Artist

© Courtesy of the artist.

Gretchen Andrew (born in California, 1988) is a Search Engine Artist and Internet Imperialist who programs her vision boards to manipulate the internet with art and desire.

She trained in London with the artist Billy Childish from 2012-2017. In 2018 the V&A Museum released her book Search Engine Art.

Gretchen’s work has recently been featured in The Los Angeles Times, Artnet News, Dazed, Hyperallergic, Artillery Magazine and The Financial Times.

Artist Website

Penny Slinger (born England, 1947) is an artist/author based in California. A collage artist, she works in different mediums – including photography, film, sculpture and digital arts. A feminist surrealist, exploring the nature of the self. Internationally exhibited, represented by Blum and Poe (LA) and Richard Saltoun Gallery, (London).

Artist Website
© Courtesy of the artist.

Keep up with the Agora Talk Programme


Agora Next Talk

Would you like to meet fabulous artists and creators? Check our Programme of Talks.


About Agora Digital Art

Founded in 2020, Agora Digital Art offers a range of content talks focused on New Media to expand our community’s perspectives on art, expression, and interpretation.

Agora Digital Art is a certified social enterprise that invites women artists to share their  “unique vision”  in the programme.

We rely on our community support to pay our volunteers and to finance our events. Everyone contribution, however big or small, is so valuable for our future. Support Agora Digital Art from as little as £1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.