Strings: Data and the Self

January 19 to April 15, 2018

Curated by Joel Kuennen & Riccardo Zagorodnev


Heather Dewey-Hagborg,  Stranger Visions , 2012-2013 Found Genetic Materials, Custom Software, 3D prints

Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Stranger Visions, 2012-2013 Found Genetic Materials, Custom Software, 3D prints

CMATO 1 logo.jpg

CMATO's goal is to introduce the community to prominent contemporary artists working in diverse mediums.

Strings: Data and the Self, is the West Coast premiere exhibition of groundbreaking new media artists that challenge “traditional” notions of art making.

The artists in the exhibition are known in Paris, London, Chicago and Singapore but are not usually seen in this beautiful hamlet of Thousand Oaks. We have curators Joel Kuennen and Riccardo Zagorodnev to thank for bringing these gifted artists to CMATO. 

 Kuennen and Zagorodnev, both alumni of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, have curated an interesting journey through the new media landscape. They unite the artists by examining the pervasiveness of big data and how it influences our identity.  

It’s a queasy awaking to experience the art in this exhibition.  The work presented is challenging,  sophisticated and provides  a perfect place to reflect and discuss on how data mediates who we are. 

We are extremely grateful to our Board of Directors, CMATO Council, Len and Judy Linton, Shawn McCabe and Richard and Joyce Johnson for providing the means for this exceptional exhibition. Special thanks to the City of Thousand Oaks for providing a place for people to gather and experience art together. Thanks to art patrons Larry Janss and Shawn and Letal Skelton, for their steadfast support of visual culture in the Conejo Valley region

---Tish Greenwood, Executive Director


Strings explores the manner in which data increasingly determines our behavior, our interactions and our overall relationship to the Self. 

Data as Trace, Data as Tag

Curatorial Introduction by Joel Kuennen & Riccardo Zagorodnev

There is currently a case before the Supreme Court, Carpenter v. United States, that is deciding both ownership of one’s data as collected by a third party your service provider and the governments right to access that information without a warrant.

What is New Media Art?

New media art has come to describe an open-ended genre of artistic practice that utilizes newly developed media technology to produce works of art. Media is a key term here in that it implies that technology is not exterior to human experience, but is used as a tool for human communication and connection.

This genre of work includes, among others, digital art, net art, videogame art and bio art, representations of each of these subcategories are included in this exhibition on how data mediates our experience of ourselves.

Heather Dewey-Hagborg is a transdisciplinary artist and educator who is interested in art as research and critical practice. Her controversial biopolitical art practice includes the project Stranger Visions in which she created portrait sculptures from analyses of genetic material (hair, cigarette butts, chewed up gum) collected in public places.


Notes about the work:

Traces left by people including hair, chewed gum, cigarette butts, etc. that we don’t think twice about leaving in the world.

Collected by Heather and then used as a sample for forensic DNA Phenotyping (FDP), technology being used by police departments in the U.S. to create “a descriptive profile from any human DNA sample.” Heather uses her portraits to point out that these profiles are general and are ultimately the result of a long history of technologies that “claim to use science order to classify types of bodies into socially constructed categories like genre and race.”

·         Heather uses the FDP results to make 3D printed portraits of the people whose genetic material she collects to put faces to the data. Only eye and hair color can be determined with accuracy, leaving the skin color to be deduced from the facial features.


· How does seeing the portraits make you feel knowing that they were created without the consent and knowledge of the subjects?

·         How would you feel if you walked into a gallery and saw a portrait like this of yourself?

·         What message can you take away from this piece?

o   Lack of privacy?

o   The power of technology to “expose” ourselves via DNA?


About Heather Dewey-Hagborg:

Heather has shown work internationally at events and venues including the World Economic Forum, Shenzhen Urbanism and Architecture Biennale, the New Museum, the Centre Pompidou and PS1MOMA. Her work has been widely discussed in the media, from the New York Times and the BBC to TED and Wired.  She is an Assistant Professor of Art and Technology Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a 2016 Creative Capital award grantee in the area of Emerging Fields. 

Branger_Briz, Probe Kit, 2015

Branger_Briz, Probe Kit, 2015

  Branger_Briz is a full service digital agency and lab made up of artists, strategists, educators and programmers bent on articulating contemporary culture.  Based in Miami FL, Chicago IL, and Cali, Colombia, they create work that provides context and perspective on the misunderstood aspects of the digital landscape.



Notes about the work:

·         Smartphones and other electronic devices with WiFi capabilities send out probe requests in attempts to connect to nearby WiFi networks. These requests can basically be seen by anyone who knows how to find them (via public databases and running various software). Each butterfly icon represents one person’s probe request that has been “captured” by Probe Kit. Each butterfly icon is thus an extension of the self, through their smartphone’s WiFi probe request.

·         How does the medium (the butterflies) affect the viewer?

Because of their bright colors, the butterflies give the feeling of being innocent, harmless, and even cute. They fly around the screen like a flock of butterflies traveling to a new location (i.e., your location).

·         Does this make the fact that your location is being tracked seem less frightening or easier to ignore?

·         What is the message? By using things such as WiFi to be more connected to the world, we are actually giving up some of our privacy. We are unconsciously allowing ourselves to be tracked.


About the artists:

Brannon Dorsey is an artist, programmer, and researcher who uses technology and reproducible electronic media to navigate difficult terrain. He employs open software tools to create experiences that excite and empower individuals and collaborative communities rather than create passive users/consumers. Brannon's work encourages a digital literacy that celebrates the truly profound technological era that we now live while remaining skeptical of the ways that this technology is being used on and against us.

Nick Briz is a new media artist, educator, and organizer living and working in Chicago, IL.  He is critically obsessed with the Internet and focuses his work on digital culture— digital literacy and ecology, netizen rights, glitch art, net art, and remix.  He organizes events on these topics (GLI.TC/H, NO-MEDIA), teaches (SAIC, Marwen, www), and produces work independently and commercially with Branger_Briz. Nick’s work has been shown internationally at FILE Media Arts Festival, the Images Festival, the Museum of Moving Image, the Tate, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.  He has been featured in on/off-line publications around the world (VICE,, Fast Company, and El Mundo.  His work is distributed through Video Out Distribution as well as openly and freely on the web. 


Read Banger_Briz's post about the Data Safari held at CMATO



Amanda Turner Pohan, Linqox Criss on Machines, Living and Otherwise,  2018

Amanda Turner Pohan, Linqox Criss on Machines, Living and Otherwise,  2018

Amanda Turner Pohan received her BFA from The School of Visual Arts and an MFA from Hunter College. Pohan is currently working on The Linqox Criss Cycle, a five-part series of installations detailing the journey of Second Lifeavatar Linqox Criss as she slips between digital and physical embodiment. Each iteration manifests as scent, sculpture, sound, text, video and performance within a immersive environment. Through this project, Pohan asks, who is the avatar, where does her body begin and end, how does she thrive, what does she smell like.  


Notes about the work:

·         Using an avatar from Second Life, Amanda created an immersive environment to explore concepts of identity and the making of the self.

·         On the screen, footage of the avatar Linqox Criss existing in Second Life and interacting with other avatars gives an idea how people are able to create imagined identities online.

·         Amanda made two ceiling panels covered with crushed computer screens and dust from her computer fan and a unique scent created from an algorithm of Linqox Criss’s HTML to be emitted into the room every 12 minutes. These two elements of the installation help to bring the online reality into the physical world. The dust collected from the computer builds up over time and as Linqox Criss continues to exist in Second Life. The scent is meant to evoke what it might be like walking through Second Life as you smell another avatar’s perfume or cologne.

·         In addition, the latex curtains help separate this artwork from the rest of the galleries, thus heightening its function as an encompassing environment.

·         The avatars continue to exist in the Second Life world, regardless of your participation. How might this affect the identities of the avatars? Will their identities remain static, or will they continue to change? (basically, do you think that the identities of the avatars are dependent on their creators?)

How do platforms such as Second Life and the use of avatars relate to how we express ourselves and define our identities? (considering that you can make your avatar look any way you want; it doesn’t have to look like you at all or even be the same gender).


Jennifer Chan is a Canadian video and media artist and curator based in Toronto. Her work addresses internet pop culture, specifically the representation of masculinity and the various constructions of femininity under the male gaze.


Notes about the work:

·         Jennifer created a collage of videos collected from YouTube and other online platforms to explore how culture responds to vulnerability and imagined ideals. Once you upload videos online, it is easy for other people to use them for their own purposes without your knowledge, thus taking away any sense of security you have.

·         The piece is largely in response to the Great Recession in the European Union and the austerity measures used to maintain lifestyles that rely on exploitative economic practices. This can be seen through the juxtaposition of upbeat imagery (people on vacation, getting married, etc.) with footage of California wildfires and text scrolling over the screen that emphasizes ideas of suffering and loss.

·         In addition, Austerity forces us to consider how much information we put online and how that information can shape the identity we put forth. For instance, on various social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook), people tend to post about the most exciting or glamorous aspects of their lives and not the tragic or bad parts. This promotes the false notion that people you follow on social media have “better” or “happier” lives than you. Jennifer’s work helps remind us to really question what we see online and not take it at face-value.

·         How has social media shaped the way you see yourself and those around you?

·         Do you think that social media is more helpful or more harmful when it comes to self-expression and identity?

About Jennifer Chen:

Chan co-organized the online exhibition Body Anxiety with Leah Schrager, featuring underrepresented artists to challenge the male-dominated internet art space. She has held solo exhibitions in numerous countries, including Young Money at Future Gallery (Berlin), I’ll Show You HD at transmediale (Berlin), Sea of Men at Galleri CC (Malmo), and New Alpha at ohmydays (Singapore). In 2013 she contributed a sequence to The One Minutes(commissioned by the Sandberg Institute) as part of Ways of Something,a net artists’ remake of John Berger’s Ways Of Seeing compiled by Lorna Mills. The video has screened at ICA London, Fabrica UK, MenShing Museum (Beijing), Wooloomooloo (Taipei), and SongEun Art Space (South Korea), and later collected by the Whitney Museum.


Shawné Michaelain Holloway  is a Chicago based new media artist using sound, video, and performance to shape the rhetorics of technology and sexuality into tools for exposing structures of power.



Notes about the work:

In A Personal Project, a series of videos Shawné created through her experience as a camgirl and artist explores the complexities of what is expected of her in each identity, as performer and artist. You can explore the videos on the tablet in the gallery.

·         Together, the three images visualize a layered, imagined and performed identity within the context of the internet.

·         The profile picture/avatar Shawné created for herself covers up her real face, thus acting as the main mode of visual identification. Shawné elaborates on this identity through a series of tags, ranging from descriptors such as “sweet” and “loving” to more fetishized qualities such as “bisexual” and “roleplay.”

·         This identity exists online, and forces us to consider the different dynamics and situations we place ourselves in via online realms such as chat rooms and webcam sites.

·         By creating this alternate identity online, Shawné hopes to expose the unbalanced power structures surrounding online pornography.

·         In A Personal Project, a series of videos Shawné created through her experience as a camgirl and artist explores the complexities of what is expected of her in each identity, as performer and artist. You can explore the videos on the tablet in the gallery.

 ·         Have you ever used tags to promote a particular idea about yourself or your identity online? (on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.)


About Shawné Michaelain Holloway

She has spoken and exhibited work internationally in spaces like The New Museum (New York, NY), Sorbus Galleria (Helsinki, Fi), on NTS Radio (London, UK) and was one of the 2017 residents at The Center for Afrofuturist Studies (Iowa City, IA.) She teaches in the New Arts Journalism department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  

Exhibition is Rated R  

Recommended for Mature Audiences