On #GLITCHFEMINISM and The Glitch Feminism Manifesto. By Legacy Russell

Last in series of writing commissions developed in relation to material from Kathy Rae Huffman’s media art library while installed at Res during 2016/17


On #GLITCHFEMINISM and The Glitch Feminism


By Legacy Russell


1. A body’s material. It’s dense. It’s impenetrable. Penetrate it, and you break it, puncture it, tear it.

2. A body’s material. It’s off to one side. Distinct from other bodies. A body begins and ends against another body. The void itself is a subtle kind of body.

3. A body isn’t empty. It’s full of other bodies, pieces, organs, parts, tissues, knee-caps, rings, tubes, levers, and bellows. It’s also full of itself: that’s all it is.

4. A body’s immaterial. It’s a drawing, a contour, an idea.

– Jean-Luc Nancy, Indices 1-4, Excerpted from ‘Fifty-eight Indices on the Body’, (Corpus)


The glitch is for the digital Orlando[1]. Those shape-shifters, time-travellers, that hold as a desire that act of transcending gender, passing through it as movable material, overcoming it as trauma, disrupting it as conspiracy, overthrowing it as socio-cultural regime. The glitch is an idea.

I began theorizing, writing, lecturing on Glitch Feminism in 2013. The “Glitch Feminism Manifesto” was first published then, solicited by sociologist and social media theorist Nathan Jurgenson for online journal The Society Pages; it was later expanded into an essay as commission for new media art platform Rhizome. Glitch Feminism aligns itself ideologically with Jurgenson’s critique of “digital dualism”, a term he coined 2011 to identify and problematize the splitting of online selfdom (the virtual world) from “real life” (the real world). Jurgenson argues that the term IRL (“In Real Life”) is a misunderstanding, an antiquated falsehood, one that implies that two selves (i.e. online versus offline) operate in isolation from one another, inferring that online activity lacks authenticity and is divorced from a user’s “real” identity, offline. In turn, Jurgenson advocates for the use of AFK (“Away From Keyboard”) in lieu of IRL, with AFK signifying a more continuous progression of the self, one that does not end when a user steps away from the computer, but rather moves forward out into society. This cycle is cumulative, one that loops and builds on itself—the online informing the offline, and vice-versa. No part stands alone, and so for Glitch Feminism the digital arena becomes a regenerative site of creative and artistic experimentation wherein new selves can first be born via online performance, then borne beyond as the performing individual makes physical these online avatars, making social and cultural space for new faces, redressing the construct of corporeality as we know it—and, in the convergence of these contributions, doing so with some collectivity.

For Glitch Feminism, IRL allows for phallogocentrism and neutralizing heteronormativity. “IRL” assumes that feminist constructions of online identities—put forward via performative expression and action—are latent, closeted, and fantasy-oriented rather than explicit, empowered, and illustrative of that which is very real and very capable of living on, offline. Embracing AFK as a feminist concept in discussion of the digital is therefore necessary, and in itself is a glitch: it simultaneously undermines the ongoing fetishization of “real life” and gives weight to the digital self within the realm of “real” that far too often is disregarded as being key to the evolution of an individual.

Chris Baraniuk observes, “Glitches, feedback, whitenoise, interference, static—although these may not be the final frontier, they are demonstrably—for now—the edge” [2]; Glitch Feminism calls out with determination from this “edge”. While historically within discussions of technoculture glitch has been used pejoratively, its etymology is rooted in the “…Yiddish glitch (“slippery area”) or perhaps German glitschen (“to slip, slide”); it is this slip and slide that the glitch makes plausible, a swim in the liminal, a trans-formation, across selfdoms.” Glitch Feminism “embraces the causality of ‘error’, and turns the gloomy implication of glitch on its ear by acknowledging that an error in a social system that has already been disturbed by economic, racial, social, sexual, and cultural stratification and the imperialist wrecking-ball of globalization—processes that continue to enact violence on all bodies—may not, in fact, be an error at all, but rather a much-needed erratum. This glitch is a correction to the ‘machine’ and, in turn, a positive departure.”[3] Glitch Feminism is therefore “activated by the accident”[4].

Responding to Donna Haraway’s proclamation, “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess,” [5] Gill Kirkup asks, “[But] is it better to be a cyborg than a woman?” [6] Glitch Feminism answers to this today with a resounding “YES!” Haraway’s cyborg premise revolves around “…the struggle for language and the struggle against perfect communication, against the one code that translates all meaning perfectly, the central dogma of phallogocentrism”[7]; thus the (de)coding of gender becomes as much about how it is constructed, as whether it can or cannot be read. Glitched bodies—those blurry bodies that aim to exist in a space between—cannot be translated via normative standards and, in turn, are categorized as monstrous. Glitched bodies pose a threat to social order: they cannot be programmed. Judith Butler observes in her Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative, “One ‘exists’ not only by virtue of being recognized, but…by being recognizable.” [8] Let us make space for ourselves by broadening the realm of the unrecognizable, and let glitch be deployed as something other than enemy, a political agent that adroitly threatens the capital of consumption, aimed at infiltrating and complicating systems, testing boundaries, traveling along limens, defying limits.

Monique Wittig wrote “‘Woman’ does not exist for us: it is only an imaginary formation, while “women” is the product of a social relationship.”[9] As Glitch Feminists “we” do not choose to be woman, we acknowledge that it is assigned to “us”; this woman has forced generations into delusion, the cruel fiction of being fixed, immovable, static. “Cyborg” is a key precursor for the glitched body—a revolutionary agent, an opportunity to self-define, to mutate toward authenticity, to re/generate on our own terms. Feminism as an enduring politic consents first to the foundational premise that “man” and “woman” must persist; secondly, it presupposes that realising the end goal of equality (and eradicating the aforementioned “violence”), requires power itself to be redistributed—and peacefully shared—between the two. Luce Irigaray recognises a “…peaceful coexistence…is the decoy of an economy of power and war”[10], a utopic distraction that positions itself just above the horizon of plausibility, ever so elusive, frustratingly always out of reach. The labor of reaching is unpaid, is exhausting, and is often rendered invisible. These “… taxonomies [of man / woman, male / female, masculine / feminine] produce meaning”[11] for a society driven by the economy of gender; yet, as mutual byproducts of a flawed construct (one that spurs an economy forward, that proliferates within a market, that marks these dichotomies as commodities within capital exchange), they are essentially meaningless[12]. As recognised by Butler, what is called upon as “the naturalized knowledge of gender” is instead “a changeable and revisable reality” [13]. Glitch Feminism identifies the body as a problematic institution, essential to its ontological soul.

How can we expire these bifurcated bodies, and the rules that govern them? What can be done to redistribute male and female—and, in turn, masculine and feminine[14]—across an ecstatic spectrum? Butler melancholically points out that “…the positions of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’…are established in part through prohibitions which demand the loss of certain sexual attachments, and demand as well that those losses not be avowed, and not be grieved.”[15] As Glitch Feminists we must claim the right to grieve as part of processing the trauma of gender and, as part of this mourning, actively refuse a history of “prohibitions”, creating pathways where previously they might not have been possible. As we aim to “hack” gender, we also need to reexamine the snap redistribution of power as a too-simplistic tool toward achieving equality; surely this act presents an obvious paradox: resituating power between two gendered points will inherently be gendered. “Assuming power is not a straightforward task of taking power from one place, transferring it intact, and then and there making it one’s own; the act of appropriation may involve an alteration of power such that the power assumed or appropriated works against the power that made that assumption possible.”[16] Such an act does not automatically give rise to the empowerment of agents therein; performed within an ongoing system failure this act cannot guarantee us freedom of new directions, nor new definitions.

Gender is a “replicating virus”[17] in the social machine, and, as fire fights fire, so does the “error” of glitch as it goes up against this virus, finding victory in new configurations, often advanced and engineered[18] by artists “At Night on the Internet”[19] as they stand at the front lines of a rapidly expanding digital frontier[20].  Philosopher and “countersexual” Paul B. Preciado speaks to the “process of virtual transformation”, noting that the “widen[ing scope of] sexuality . . . [means leaving] the body and turning . . . towards an immaterial, informative, if not actually a digital space.”[21] The glitched body is capacious, and contemporary artists are decolonizing the architecture of the corporeal via ongoing experimentation[22] online.

Lynn Hershman Leeson’s “anti-body”, surfaced in her “Romancing the Anti-body: Lust and Longing in (Cyber)space”[23] lays useful groundwork for applying the language of mechanical glitch as a mode of resistance against corporeal binaries. “Like computer viruses,” Hershman Leeson writes, “[anti-bodies] escape extinction through their ability to morph and survive, exist in perpetual motion, navigating parallel conditions of time and memory.” Intersectional with these “anti-bodies”, the glitched body answers to world conditions in its aim to transform the socio-economic machine of gender[24]; thus, the glitch and the bodies that claim it can be both subversive tool and radical technology in and of themselves. Still, this grounding in the current conditions of the world does not preclude glitched bodies from the right to apply the imaginary as computational strategy, a means of manifesting new geographies and making new worlds for ourselves, to be shared between one another.  Lev Manovich furthers a discussion of these brave new worlds and what such a framework might offer us in his essay ‘Database as Symbolic Form'[25]:

As a cultural form, database represents the world as a list of items and it refuses to order this list. In contrast, a narrative creates a cause-and-effect trajectory of seemingly unordered items (events). Therefore, database and narrative are natural enemies. Competing for the same territory of human culture, each claims an exclusive right to make meaning out of the world.

While the hashtag of  #GLITCHFEMINISM has taken on a life of its own in the form of an ever-expanding digital archive, glitched bodies themselves “refuse…order” in wandering within a wildness of unrecognizable being, actively re-imagining and re-centering neoteric realities. Glitched bodies vivify and live on via the material of the Internet; thus these bodies, always online, remain current in their presence, and, as such are not placed within the quiet annals of history. They stretch beyond an archival construct as yoked to or embedded within a specific moment in time. The mythologies as driven by narrative history only surface in the 20/20 perspective that comes with the privileges of hindsight. It is the archiving of material that allows for those perspectives to deepen as time passes. The architecture of the archive rises out of the ordering of data-material into categories, often building toward some sort of narrative arc; by reviewing pieces of material in order, sense can be made lending toward an integrated understanding, the data of such a program, processed. Counter to this, the glitched body remains contemporary, rejects historical processing, and celebrates its disorder as a mark of success within a social system that strangles with the fetishism of categorisation. In turn, #GLITCHFEMINISM ever-operates as a living network, its data celebrated in its non-sense.

As a means of pushing back against the tyranny of this sort of programming—and of the language of categorisation, by socio-cultural extension—the glitch does not aspire to the singularity of “events”, but toward what Paul B. Preciado calls the “microact”, a mode of “revolution [that situates itself within] the domain of the possible.”[26] Such microacts, when mobilized collectively, embody an activism, deliberately distancing us step by step from the fascism of what appears now as a swiftly unfolding conservative world bent, and aiding the (ever-reluctant, ever-essential) letting go of the fantasy of single-act revolution, one that suggests that real change is an (AFK) event, rather than a lived experience[27] that  works holistically (online, offline) against a totalitarian “narrative”[28] . Evolution as revolution!

Hershman Leeson further unpacks the potential of the database as a channel through which the corporeal can evolve and be re/generated or redressed, noting:

Much of the art that depicts the body as sacrificed and objectified desire has experienced a well needed correction. The object has been reincarnated as subject, and, I might add, just in the nick of time, because the corporeal body is becoming obsolete. It is living through a history of erasure, but this time, through enhancements. To survive, the remains of the body has morphed into The Data Body[29].

Thus the “database” gives way to “the data body” which in turn guides to the glitched body, a non-linear manifestation[30] that innovates in skirting the prescriptive lassoing of social algorithm and, by doing so, presents “…a new discourse, new knowledge, … new politics, … travers[ing] an unnamable point, a point of absolute non-narrative, non-culture, and non-knowledge” in mutiny against what Maurizio Lazzarato calls “machinic enslavement”[31].

This is not to suggest that the glitched body is incapable of building narrative, culture, nor new forms of knowledge—quite the contrary. Non- here does not operate as erasure but rather recognizes an important point of departure, one that catapults us beyond the structure of a colonized body, that body that is alternately occupied and projected onto by the violent process of categorization. In its ongoing transformation the glitched self stakes a proud claim in its fluidity, a body politic that prioritizes that space-in-between[32] as final destination, with “unrecognizable” and “unnameable” as a resist against gendered binaries and the language that has been built to serve and protect them[33]. Thus while the original Glitch Feminism Manifesto and this text work symbiotically to speak to this movement, nodding to the integral histories of cyberfeminism, the language here fashions itself after the fluidity it narrates, it fights to remain alive as it speaks to the life of the glitched self, rather than aspiring to fossilize and preserve the glitched body as a stable and stationary discourse from outside of it[34]. This is slippery. As Toni Morrison observes, “Language can never ‘pin down’…Nor should it yearn for the arrogance to be able to do so. Its force, its felicity is in its reach toward the ineffable.”[35]


The glitched body, lambently “ineffable”, disrupts: it is a gerund act, an action ongoing, an activism that unfolds without end[36].  In order to speak to the rebellious “transform[ations]  of [this] embodied sel[f]”[37] we also need to explore in what way these glitched selves re/generate, and how they might work against a historical discourse about the body that bends to a heteronormative narrative in its glorification of an origin story[38]. We are “suspicious of the reproductive matrix” yet acknowledge that “every technology is a reproductive technology” and so has the capacity to re/generate positively[39]. With reproduction applied within a political sphere as a means of protecting the binary of man / woman, and the ability to reproduce having an oppressive legacy of lending social and economic value to biologically female bodies, the coercive architecture of reproduction cannot be overlooked here. Though the online space—and the work artists are doing within it—is indeed generative in the production of new frameworks, how this re/generation operates within this discussion “cannot [be left] within the power of the straight mind or the thought of domination”[40]. To work against this as hazard, a creative vanguard plays a vital role[41], artists using the digital as a means of “talking back” to power structures and identifying systems that promulgate the potential for a rising new world order, one that mirrors ongoing AFK problematics through the reification of race, class, and gender, thereby puncturing the wasted myth of the digital as anything near utopic[42]. Yet, “…there is always a point at which technologies geared towards regulation, containment, command, and control, can turn out to be feeding into the collapse of everything they once supported”[43]. When the glitched body travels through the digital space and out the other side into the AFK world at large, this journey is a mode of parthenogenesis, an embodied political technology that queers as achievement. These glitched selves, though visible, addressable, and therefore subject to being seen[44], are not anchored within economy to be packaged as commodity, nor existing to be fed into the voracious mouth of commercial capital. Rather, the glitched self re/generates online via a multitude of “performative utterance[s]”[45] that work “to the extent that they are given…form”[46] that extends beyond the aesthetic hollowness of ceremony, instead alchemizing into concrete action, offline.


1. Woolf, Virginia. Orlando: A Biography. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1928. Print.

2. Baraniuk, Chris. ‘Feedback, White Noise and Glitches: Cyberspace Strikes Back.’ The Machine Starts. N.p., 11 Aug. 2012. Web. Dec. 2012.

3. Russell, Legacy. ‘Digital Dualism And The Glitch Feminism Manifesto – Cyborgology.’ The Society Pages, Cyborgology. N.p., 10 Dec. 2012. Web. 2016.

4. Plant, Sadie. Zeros and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture. London: Fourth Estate, 1998. Page 97. Print.

5. Haraway, Donna Jeanne. The Haraway Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004. Page 39. Print.

6. Kirkup, Gill. The Gendered Cyborg: A Reader. London: Routledge in Association with the Open U, 2000. Page 5. Print.

7. Haraway, Donna Jeanne. The Haraway Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004. Page 34. Print.

8. Butler, Judith. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York: Routledge, 1997. Page 5. Print.

9. Wittig, Monique. The Straight Mind and Other Essays. Boston: Beacon, 1992. Page 15. Print.

10. Irigaray, Luce. This Sex Which Is Not One. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1985. Page 130. Print.

11. Kirkup, Gill. The Gendered Cyborg: A Reader. London: Routledge in Association with the Open U, 2000. Page 6. Print.

12. Ibid – see Footnote 9.  Wittig points to the socio-economic function and codependency of women observing, “…women are a class…the category ‘woman’ [and] ‘man’ are political and economic categories not eternal ones. Our fight aims to suppress men as a class, not through genocidal, but a political struggle. Once the class ‘men’ disappears, ‘women’ as a class will disappear as well, for there are no slaves without masters.”

13. Butler, Judith. ‘Preface (1999).’ Preface. Gender Trouble. New York: Routledge, 2007. Xxiv. Print.

14. Wittig even goes as far to argue that in fact there is only one gender: “Gender is the linguistic index of the political opposition between the sexes. Gender is used here in the singular because indeed there are not two genders. There is only one: the feminine, the ‘masculine’ not being a gender. For the masculine is not the masculine, but the general.” Via the overthrow of gender, Wittig, Monique. The Straight Mind and Other Essays. Boston: Beacon, 1992. Page 60. Print.

15. Butler, Judith. The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1997. Page 135. Print.

16. Butler, Judith. The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1997. Page 13. Print.

17. Kirkup, Gill. The Gendered Cyborg: A Reader. London: Routledge in Association with the Open U, 2000. Page 250. Print.

18. “She isn’t making pictures: these are diagrams. She isn’t an artist, but a software engineer.” Plant, Sadie. Zeros and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture. London: Fourth Estate, 1998. Page 193. Print.

19. Reference to exhibition title ‘Girls at Night on the Internet’ as curated in 2015 by @artbabygirl for Art Baby Gallery (www.artbabygallery.com).

20. Let’s think here of VNS Matrix and their ‘Cyberfeminist Manifesto’: “…we see art with our cunt we make art with our cunt / we believe in jouissance madness holiness and poetry / we are the virus of the new world disorder / rupturing the symbolic from within / saboteurs of big daddy mainframe…” VNS Matrix. ‘VNS Matrix / Cyberfeminist Manifesto.’ VNS Matrix / Cyberfeminist Manifesto. N.p., 1991. Web. 2016.

21. In the same interview Preciado queries, “the question we can ask ourselves is if this technical transformation of sexuality will be useful for the old genre—masculine/feminine—and sexuality—hetero/ homo—reaffirmation, or if it will give rise to new political configurations that will escape from the norm.” Ferrer, Vicente. “Beatriz Preciado, some kind of queer oracle”. Buffalo Zine. Web. 2015.

22. I think here of Paul B. Preciado (previously known and published as Beatriz Preciado): “We need a new policy of experimentation and not just that of representation. ‘Judith Butler and Beatriz Preciado’ Interview by Ursula Del Aguila. Las Disidentes. N.p., 21 Apr. 2012. Web. 2016. Translation of the interview (from French to Spanish) for the website of ‘Las disidentes’ art collective, conducted by Ursula Del Aguila, originally published in French magazine Têtu (Issue 138, November 2008). Translation into English (for use in this context) done by Legacy Russell.

23. Hershman Leeson, Lynn. ‘Romancing the Anti-body; Lust and Longing in (Cyber)space.’Cameraworks Magazine (1994): n. pag. Lynn Hershman Leeson. Mar. 2013. Web. Nov. 2016.

24. Ibid – See Footnote 11. “Plant draws heavily upon [Luce] Irigaray’s notion of the ‘specular economy’, where patriarchy and capitalism are based upon the trade of women’s bodies. She sees cyberspace as a place where women can circumvent this economy, as the technology proliferates beyond patriarchal control, and all capital escapes.”

25. Manovich, Lev. “Database as a Symbolic Form.” Millennium Film Journal 34 (1999): n. pag. Millennium Film Journal Online. Millennium Film Journal. Web. Nov. 2016.

26. ‘Judith Butler and Beatriz Preciado.’ Interview by Ursula Del Aguila. Las Disidentes. N.p., 21 Apr. 2012. Web. 2016. Translation of the interview (from French to Spanish) for the website of ‘Las disidentes’ art collective, conducted by Ursula Del Aguila, originally published in French magazine Têtu (Issue 138, November 2008). Translation into English (for use in this context) done by Legacy Russell.

27. ‘Life can only be understood as an event’ — Mikhail Baktin, found via Lazzarato, Maurizio, and Joshua David Jordan. Signs and Machines: Capitalism and the Production of Subjectivity. Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2014. Epigraph, Page 177. Print.

28. Consider Rudi Dutschke here, in March of 1968: “The revolution is not an event that takes two or three days … It is a long drawn out process in which new people are created, capable of renovating society so that the revolution does not replace one elite with another, but so that the revolution creates a new anti-authoritarian structure with anti-authoritarian people who in their turn re-organize the society so that it becomes a non-alienated human society, free from war, hunger, and exploitation.” Found via Dworkin, Andrea. Woman Hating. New York: Penguin, 1974. Initial epigraph. Print.

29. Hershman Leeson, Lynn. ‘Some Thoughts on the Data Body.’ (1994): n. pag. Lynn Hershman Leeson. Mar. 2015. Web. Nov. 2016.

30. Considering: ‘Of all the media and machines to have emerged in the late twentieth century, the Net has been taken to epitomise the shape of this new distributed nonlinear world.’ Plant, Sadie. Zeros and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture. London: Fourth Estate, 1998. Page 46. Print.

31. Lazzarato, Maurizio, and Joshua David Jordan. Signs and Machines: Capitalism and the Production of Subjectivity. Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2014. Epigraph, Page 18; Page 26. Print.

32. ‘”Cyberfeminism does not express itself in single, individual approaches but in the differences and spaces in between.” Sollfrank, Cornelia. ‘The Truth about Cyberfeminism.’ The Truth about Cyberfeminism. N.p., n.d. Web. 2016.

33. “We are…positive anti reason…” VNS Matrix. ‘VNS Matrix / Cyberfeminist Manifesto.’ VNS Matrix / Cyberfeminist Manifesto. N.p., 1991. Web. 2016.

34. Considering: “I write however with a broken tool, a language which is sexist and discriminatory to its core … I have not been successful in reinventing the language.” Dworkin, Andrea. Woman Hating. New York: Penguin, 1974. Page 26. Print.

35. Morrison, Toni. ‘Toni Morrison – Nobel Lecture.’ Nobel Lectures in Literature : 1991-1995. N.p.: World Scientific, 1997. N. pag. Nobel Prize. Web. Nov. 2016. Excerpted from Morrison’s Nobel Lecture which she gave on December 7, 1993.

36. The glitched body is a body that defies the hierarchies and strata of logic, it is proudly nonsensical and therefore perfectly non-sense. I think here again of Jean Luc-Nancy’s “Fifty-eight Indices on the Body”, this time Indice 18 wherein Luc-Nancy muses: “…Bodies produce sense beyond sense. They’re an extravagance of sense.” Found via Nancy, Jean-Luc, and Richard Rand. Corpus. New York: Fordham UP, 2008. Print.

37. Nakamura, Lisa. Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet. New York: Routledge, 2002. Page 8. Print.

38. I think here of Aphrodite who in Greek mythology emerged from sea foam as a full-grown adult (aphrós literally meaning “sea-foam”, so her name rising from this foam as well) and so has an origin story that defies a heteronormative narrative that is procreative-dependent. Ironically Aphrodite is known as the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation.

39. Haraway, Donna Jeanne. The Haraway Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004. Page 38, 69.  Print.

40. Wittig, Monique. The Straight Mind and Other Essays. Boston: Beacon, 1992. Page 30. Print.

41. Considering: “Creativity is not a product of language but an ethico-political assemblage…” Found via Lazzarato, Maurizio, and Joshua David Jordan. Signs and Machines: Capitalism and the Production of Subjectivity. Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2014. Page 194. Print.

42. “Contrary to the dreams of many net utopians, the Net does not automatically obliterate hierarchies through free exchanges of information across boundaries.” Wilding, Faith. ‘Where Is Feminism in Cyberfeminism?’ N.paradoxa 2 (1998): 6-13. Where Is Feminism in Cyberfeminism?  Web. 2017.

43. Plant, Sadie. Zeros and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture. London: Fourth Estate, 1998. Page 143. Print.

44. Consider here that visuality operates via a mode of consumption, yes—but we are not obligated to eternally frame this consumption exclusively as a site of trauma. Viewership and visibility—the act of seeing, or alternately, of being seen—do not need to be solely constricted within a discourse of scopophilic otherizing.  Instead looking, seeing, being seen, are active components of engaging with the vibrant visual culture we swim within; these actions offer roots here, ones that branch out, growing with us. To borrow a term from (curator, writer, researcher) Taylor Le Melle’s presentation as part of ‘Technology Now: Blackness on the Internet’ (16 November 2016, ICA London, Curated by Legacy Russell) there is a politic in “necessary visibility”, one that can be usefully exercised and acted upon within this discussion.

45. Austin, J. L. How to Do Things with Words. Oxford: Clarendon, 1965. Page 6. Print.

46. Butler, Judith. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York: Routledge, 1997. Page 3. Print.


Legacy Russell is a writer, artist, and cultural producer. Born and raised in New York City’s East Village she is the UK Gallery Relations Lead and Gallery Partner Programs Lead for the online platform Artsy. Her work can be found in a variety of publications worldwide: BOMB, The White Review, Rhizome, DIS, The Society Pages, Guernica, Berfrois and beyond. Holding an MRes of Visual Culture with Distinction from Goldsmiths College at University of London, her academic and creative work focuses on gender, performance, digital selfdom, idolatry, and new media ritual. Her first book, Glitch Feminism, which this piece borrows from, is forthcoming and will be published by Verso. Instagram @ellerustle | Twitter @legacyrussell | www.legacyrussell.com.