Activism, VR and Doom. The art of Miyö Van Stenis

War Room. A VR Art piece by Miyö Van Stenis

By Fabien

Miyö Van Stenis is a young digital artist working with the VR medium. We had a long chat over Skype on the day her work opened as part of the DiMoDA VR exhibition in NYC. Here is our chat transcript.

You recent VR work references « Sexuality and War, as represented through the ideological structure of supremacy shaped by gender: Feminism and Patriachalism. ». How does that translate into your VR work War Room ?

Miyö Van Stenis: Inside War Room there's a discourse created with archetypal figures that I think represent that ideological structure of western society. For example, one the strongest moments that the piece proposes is when you visit the top of the Room. Beside the fact that your avatar is welcomed  with a quote of Foucault about power, you can access a video playlist that I made using the speeches of Malala, Emma Watson & Hillary. Its all pretty carefully cut up and mixed to explain or expose the society posture about this two forms of powers. You can enjoy a "feminism cocktail" in these speeches, but it's counter-posed with the reality of how these people that call themselves feminists still use the format of patriacal discourse, as the video also features hardcore porn flashbacks. So for me, the poetical image that you can perceive with this video is pretty much that even with all the power ppl think they have, it's just an ilusion because sex or war as forms of power are independent from individuals, it's a constant.

Thanks. It is seriously time for VR works that challenges the culitural norms. Btw you work references Doom as well, which was a technical prowess back in its day that ended up having a huge cultural impact despite its simple narrative premises.
Now the co-creator of Doom is also the head of engineering of Oculus/Facebook.

Do you think VR has the power of changing/reversing some of the stigmas associated with white, male, western centric pop culture ?

MVS: I hope so. It's a good time to leap in the void of VR as Klein did it once, but it doesn't depend on a particular format. I'm a believer that contemporary artists should challenge, push the limits and go forward of what's already settled. There's a big opportunity with VR to find a better definition inside the spectrum of race, gender where we can be all included and comfortable... but we are not even near that yet. What I'm most afraid is the fact that this new generation that will run world tomorrow is still too attached to the conception of "body", to the self-overexpose, etc. So the most difficult to change are not the stigmas, it may be our own perceptions, to accept others.

It’s a good time to leap in the void of VR

Very interesting observation

MVS: Well technology after the internet teaches us that the problem in society is not power, or money. It's us.

Donna Harway often says that we need new stories. Do you think we also need new spaces and new medias to tell them?

MVS: of course!. Something very interesting happens when you see new medias, or items, subcultures, etc... when it becomes popular, capitalism absorbs completely, so what started being "avant-garde" ends being "mass" and part of the others. And that space, that app, that platform ends up being useless. So in order to continue with this wonderfull dialectic of being part of a society, and also as a creator, you need to move foward, look for the next pltaform till capitalism owns it It happens with everything, for example with Glitch. At the begining it was something amazing, scary and now Kylie Jenner has the glicth app so she's a glitch "artist", I guess it's better move on....

Didnt know about the jenner/glitch thing ! I guess I’ll take the glitchization of  celebs over fantasmatically perfect photoshoping…. There is still lot to thank the Glitchers for;-)
Do you mind talking about your background a bit ?And how it does inform your work?

MVS: well, I was born and raised in Venezuela.... I'm a caribbean woman. I was always very close to computers, Internet, etc when growing up. My dad is a geek, so that gave me the opportunity to develop an interest in digital art but also prepare my conscience about the importance of knowledge as I had to learn how to code and do a lot of stuff by myself. When I started studyin Art, there wasn't a "digital art scene" in Venezuela. There was nothing, no interest in digital art and the no definition of what type of art I was doing... I started doing net art right from the beginning. I never drew or stuff like that, but for a couple of years I didnt know what I was doing. I eventually found the definition of my life because somebody online left me a comment on Myspace saying something like: I like your style, so "glitch" and searched for the word. By 2009 I start calling myself a Net art/glitch artist. After that I finally got to a point where I had a space to share what I'm doing and started doing exhibitions worldwide while finishing my degree in Mixed Media Art in 2012. Two years later I became a political refugee because the situation in my country get really bad and my political work started being a problem for the current gouverment.

So that’s how you landed in Paris?

MVS: Yes I arrived here to stay for a few months so I could do some exhibitions etc. And then i had to stay because things get weird back home This is a story that will never end. It's really difficult to see how a system can frustrate your own nationality and future, knowing that power is ephemeral for individuals. Even before all this happened, I used been an activist, and have this anarchy-digital-collective called De Origen Belico than stand for Of War Origin. So when the situation blew It seems like the perfect puzzle to my intimate relationship with art-politics-philosophy.

In your trajectory and works, I see the willingness to not only expose the harsh realities of powers and struggles, but also the idea of proposing new narratives, alternate futures. Do you see VR as a promising tool for speculative fiction ?

MVS: I have to. I'm excited by the idea of immersing yourself in another state, by the notion of being in another dimension of your timescape. But also because I'm influenced by Klein, Jesus Soto, Baudrillard, Hakim Bey, etc ppl who delete completely in their work the concept of "matter" If there's no matter, no world, no object that have to be the medium between you and the experience that art have to provoke, that simple fact its sublime, its completely poetic. Also because I feel a lot of ppl are not interested in the item that you put on our head, dont care if its an oculus or sony. We only want the wonderful surprise of wtf we're going to see. And finally I'm excited because VR rescues the fact that the contemplative act is an individual experience allowing to un-plug from IRL a little bit.

Well that was such a great way to end our convesration
Thanks Miyö for taking the time and good luck for your show in New York.