Talking Technology and Women's bodies with Tiffany Trenda

Aarushi Sharma

August 07, 2021

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Los Angeles-based Performance Artist Tiffany Trenda joined the WITI Art and Tech Cafe and Gallery on Monday, August 17, 2020, to discuss the impact of technology on the perception of women's bodies and identities.

She began the conversation by speaking about both the inhibiting as well as supporting the nature of contemporary technology. Relating Sigmund Freud's idea of screen memory in a modern context, she claimed that people today tend to use technology to filter their own experiences.

"We are curating our lives through screens, and what I mean by that is we are revealing and concealing ourselves through social media platforms, and therefore our identities become mediated. " Trenda said, addressing the virtual gathering. "So this is why with my work, I will reveal and conceal my body through screens, and in doing so, the body, of course, becomes an interface."

During the course of the conversation, Trenda shared some of her previous performance pieces and narrated the events that led to the culmination of the same.

These included the Proximity Cinéma, a 3-D printed bodysuit to play on the idea of touch in relation to screens and the consequent loss of intimate experiences.

"Touch itself has always been a very intimate experience on its own; it's how we figure out the environment around us or the world around us," she said. "But now we are touching so much with screens and it is not an intimate experience; we are looking into a screen to understand the world."

Through Ubiquitous States, Trenda connected technology being used to gather data from our bodies with the evolution of clothing and the desire to foster a different kind of experience with our bodies.

Trenda also spoke about her performances including The Vanishing Portrait, focusing on racial stereotypes, misogyny and exploitation as well as a new piece which was meant to be showcased in March of this year. The performance shedding light on ‘[the] body as an interface for experience', has been postponed due to COVID-19 related restrictions on public gatherings.

"Instead of illustrating someone else's experience by immersing you into their world, I want to capture the nuances of our own unique emotions and histories," Tranda revealed about the upcoming exhibition.

Trenda also spoke about using her art to raise awareness about the growing statistics concerning cyber rape and online harassment.

She mentioned that a staggering 53% of Americans experienced some form of online harassment in 2019 alone.

Her upcoming piece, Amygdala, set to premiere in 2021, seeks to employ art and technology in harmony to potently inform people of these issues and explore how Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality perpetuates harmful notions about our bodies.

"Can we go beyond the divide, the spatial boundaries, and the power conditions? The virtual is still limiting," she claimed.

The conversation also focused on how the book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk influenced Amygdala.

Trenda stated that she wanted viewers to be able to gain a more in-depth understanding of their own underlying trauma instead of displaying her own experiences to them. She was attracted to the book's core idea.

"The body keeps whatever experiences you have and your body is connected; all of your plush body is connected. I wanted to take all of these notions like empathy and body and create an AR experience as a performance art piece," she explained.

The latter half of the event was devoted to answering questions from audience members. In response to how performance art has been changing since the outbreak of the pandemic, Trenda expressed that she sees an evolution in performance art influenced by the current circumstances as well as the political tensions.

"There are all these different ways now of doing a performance that is under the umbrella of performance," she answered. "How separating you are from the audience is going to be interesting. Maybe the work is going to talk about the separation aspect because you can not physically be there for the performance."

She also responded to an audience question about the effect of the pandemic on variables by stating that variables have been positively influenced.

"For right now, we are seeing a lot of the notion of variables to help us through COVID like a lot of 3-D printing places are starting to produce things like for the hospitals," she replied. "And instead of just creating [sensory] data from the body, I feel like we are going to start to think about the plush body, and maybe just about our interactions more... [and] I think we are also going to start to think about how we can bring ourselves together more."

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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