This is a short interview with Kingston Gallery member Margaret Hart about her current exhibition:
Can you describe how you came to make the work in the Situated Becomings series?
This series explores how collage and science fiction are brought together through creative practice and presents a series of artworks which are created out of a process involving both. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was a favorite novel of mine in my youth and the book began a life–long fascination with science fiction. I loved the mix of science and ethical issues Shelley raised, but also the social questions about “what it means to be human?” and “what makes us human?” Just as adolescence makes one wonder, “what on earth is going on with me?”, adulthood reframes these issues to question our humanity in the face of complex social and ethical problems. Ever since my first introduction to Shelley’s medical, marvelous monster, I have continued to turn to science fiction for its mix of science, often presented as probable, with my own sense of my humanity.
My recent artwork explores the potential of collage, the stitching together, if you will, of components to create a new whole. Mary Shelley claims her novel is about how the “parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and imbued with a vital warmth.” This description could be used to describe both Shelley’s process and my collage practice as well. In my collage series, I create meaning by bringing together feminist theories of gender, science fiction and concepts of posthumanism (a rejection of traditional Western humanism). At the same time, I bring imagination to the process of creation, striving not for a new form of human being, but for greater insight into the human condition.
Can you further explain the connection in your work between science fiction, feminism and issues of posthumanism?
Feminist science fiction writers asked questions such as; How would a society based on equality look? How would it be run and who would make the decisions? What science and technology differences would there be? Feminist writers used the imaginative aspects of the science fiction genre to critique social stereotyping and challenge the position of woman as other to man. Ursula K. Le Guin suggests that science fiction allows for “thought–experiments” where power structures, sexual order and gender can be creatively inverted and altered in numerous imaginative ways.
Creating these thought experiments has become part of my process as well. The relationship between visual collage and experimental science fiction in my practice is entangled and intertwined, allowing for imaginative posthumanist gender possibilities. These cyborgs, hybrids, or even perhaps monsters, are models for modes of becoming where human and non–human subjects join in affirmative potentia, where one seeks new figurations and creative theoretical alternatives for existing ideas. Conviction and optimism combine with transformation in the Situated Becomings series making these works material examples of posthumanism and the transformative power of becoming.
What do you want the viewer to walk away thinking about after viewing these works?
Upon viewing the collage Situated Becomings #23, seen directly above, one could see a monster and denounce the aesthetic value of the work or one could be seduced by the aesthetics and embrace imaginative possibilities for new understanding of what it means to be human. There are connections between the combined fragments which create the whole, a being more–than or other–than what it was. Science fiction and art are entangled together to picture affirmative potentia and the posthuman. Beginning with Mary Shelley and her statement; “parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and imbued with a vital warmth,” this series brings full circle the layers and influences joined together in the creation of this body of work. The vital warmth in my Situated Becomings series is an affirmative stance on the posthuman and the possibilities that provides for expanding our understanding of gender.