(articulated as V.N.S. a fauxcronym) was a cyberfeminist media art collective formed in Adelaide (South Australia) in 1991.
The most consistent VNS Matrix genesis story is that VNS Matrix crawled out of the cyberswamp in the particularly hot summer of 1991 and via an aesthetics of slime initially generated as porn (by women for women) VNS Matrix forged an unholy alliance with technology and its machines, and spewed forth a blasphemous text which was the birth of cyberfeminism. VNS Matrix was on a mission to hijack the toys from technocowboys and remap cyberculture with a feminist bent. This is one story.
There are also stories about a slime consciousness operating via spiralspace, across the gyne-matrix, and that cyberfeminism had multiple simultaneous spontaneous points of origin. Sadie Plant was a node, working from Warwick University, as was Nancy Paterson who, in 1992 wrote an article entitled “Cyberfeminism” for the Echo Gopher server.
All of these stories are true and not true. What is clear is that lineage was anathema to VNS Matrix, and that co-relations across spiralspace were spawned, and proliferated.
Cyberfeminism is one of many feminisms, and feminism has not gone away.
From 1991 – 1997 VNS Matrix presented installations and public art works in Australia and overseas, working with new media, photography, sound and video. Their works include installations, events, computer ames and interactive works, imagery and propaganda distributed through the Internet, zines, and billboards. Taking their point of departure in a sexualised and socially provocative relationship between women and technology the works subversively questioned discourses of domination and control in the expanding cyber space.
The first of their works (a large scale billboard), taking as its’ starting point Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto”, featured their gyne-canonical text written and distributed across Australian cities in 1991, “A Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Century”. It was in this manifesto that the term “cyberfeminism” first appeared, and this work was widely distributed. In the manifesto, VNS Matrix stated that, “we are the modern cunt/positive anti reason/unbounded unleashed unforgiving” and that, “we are the virus of the new world disorder/rupturing the symbolic from within/saboteurs of big daddy mainframe/the clitoris is a direct line to the matrix/the VNS Matrix”. The group disbanded in 1997, but occasionally work together on selected projects and presentations. Their parting manifesto “Bitch Mutant Manifesto” gave the finger to all technopatriarchies and capitalist infospheres with the words “suck my code” amongst other blasphemous exhortations.
“… cyberfeminism was a catalytic moment, a collective memetic mind-virus that mobilised geek girls everywhere and unleashed the blasphemic techno-porno code that made machines pleasurable and wet. a linguistic weapon of mass instruction, the vns manifesto struck at the mass erection of the technopatriarchal order. we loved with machines, in a most unholy alliance. as I watch pussy riot declining to be “clean and proper” bodies in a most filthy way, i feel the morphing cyberg feminist lineage stretching through time and space. vns matrix were dirty (cyber)space cowboys, echoes of the abjectionable in orbit, space junk (in every way) in the stratosphere!”
VNS Matrix acknowledge that all work was made on indigenous land, primarily Tarntanya on Kaurna land, and Bondi of the Eora nation. We enjoyed the privilege of free passage across that land to create our works, and all benefits that have accrued from the production of that work are as a result of that privilege.
VNS Matrix supports feminisms that are inclusive of all women (trans women, womxn, feminine-identified and non-binary identified people and cis women); and that are intersectional.
Writings by the artists
- All New Gen in Virtual Futures: Cyberotics, Technology and Post-Human Pragmatism, 1998
- ALL NEW GEN in Unnatural: Techno-Theory for a Contaminated Culture, 1994
- Infiltrate in Broadsheet, March 1993
- Maps: Territories: Subject: corpusfantasticaMOO in Nonlocated online: Digital territories, incorporations and the matrix, 1995
- Welcome to the world of ALL NEW GEN in Frame-work: The N E double U Issue: Arts, Media and Technologies, 1993
- VNS Matrix: Cyberfeminists in artwork: Community Arts Network SA, December 1996
- VNS Matrix in The Art Happens Here: Net Art Anthology, 2019