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New Media Futures: The Rise of Women in the Digital Arts captures the spirit of women working in digital media arts and education in the Midwest. These pioneers made essential contributions to the international technological revolution, helping to catalyze what we now think of as the age of digital and social media.

Our Herstory Screening Room features works that emerged from seminal events that took place at the University of Illinois and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1980s-2000s, in a fertile environment combining social feminist change, artistic energy, and technological innovation. While women artists in Chicago, marginalized in traditional venues, built a network of independent galleries and exhibit spaces to house and highlight their work, interdisciplinary Renaissance Teams at the University of Illinois developed advanced academic computing communities that created a bridge to the humanities and forged new partnerships between the artist and the scientific environment. Behind this revolution lay a history of social change, artistic innovation, women’s civic leadership, and breakthroughs in science and technology.

Please enjoy a curated video art selection of featured works that were included in New Media Futures:

Barbara Sykes : Shiva Darshan, 1994

"Art was very good to me, but I feel more and more driven to do work that plays an active role in change and contributes to the larger culture, stories I am intrinsically connected to, feel passionately about, and want to share. Now I am trying to push, grow, and contribute by using the technology in different ways. One of my strengths as a storyteller is being grounded in an aesthetic sophistication of great emotional depth that depicts the underlying sacred nature of the people and events portrayed. This has quite a different emphasis from what was initially very important to me and the community I grew up where there was an emphasis on the cutting edge, working on the most sophisticated tool systems, and creating groundbreaking work. In comparison today, children have more powerful systems than what I worked on back then." 

Shiva Darsan, 1994, shot in Nepal, reveals the religious, cultural, and philosophical beliefs of indigenous people from various cultures by exploring their rituals, dance, music, and daily activities that revolve around life and death. From birth to death, special rites and celebrations mark the important events of one’s existence, ensuring a symbiosis of body and soul with the divine. This deep relationship between the people and their god is reaffirmed through daily activity, strengthening their sense of sacredness and self-respect. Sykes shot all of the footage during her fourteen-month Columbia College sabbatical and Chicago Artists Abroad Artists Residency in Asia, the Mideast, and Africa in 1988–1989, and upon her return to the States, she edited and distributed them.

Courtesy of Barbara Sykes. Featured in 'New Media Futures: The Rise of Women in the Digital Arts'.

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