Critical Writing Index

"Collective Orgasm": The Eco-Cyber-Pornography of Shu Lea Cheang

by Eva Oishi

Women's Studies Quarterly, Spring/Summer 2007, v. 35, no. 1, pp. 20-44

The Feminist Press, 2007

In this academic article, Eve Oishi gives deeper insights into Shu Lea Cheang's art practices (Milk, I.K.U., Garlic = Rich Air, Platinum SnapMeat).

Interactive Web-based art practice, Milk draws its charge from the overlaps and tensions between the porno graphic, political, economic, and artistic value of digital images, challenging the ways in which these modes are understood as exclusive or paradoxical. It exploits the ways in which digital technology and cyberspace have fundamentally reshaped our experiences of space and time, simultaneously offering the promise of endless free choice and limiting our options through an increasingly singular consumerism and this work draws a parallel between the commodification of both women's bodies and the natural environment through the commercial and technological networks of cyberspace.

Cheang's digital porn video in 2000, I.K.U. offers a futuristic setting. By drawing connections between watching a pornographic video and surfing the Web, Cheang suggests that acquiring sexual pleasure within twenty-first-century technoscapes has become shaped by and therefore inseparable from new forms of consumerism offered by the Internet and this video rejects traditional cinematic notions of narrative unity in favor of an alternative temporality borrowed from Net surfing.

Cheang's 2002 multimedia cyberinstallation Garlic=Rich Air takes a more literal view of the space of the Internet as an ecosystem and asks how it might be exploited in the service of alternative systems of personal, artistic, and economic exchange. In the work, Cheang again creates a futuristic scenario, in this case one in which organic farming and cyberspace become the dominant market forces.

Platinum SnapMeat is Cheang's 2003 project set in the near future. It imagines a nomadic Mad Max-like car/art culture in which Middle East oil and American neocolonialism have transformed parking lots into the main public spaces for art and sex, and in which sex is the main commodity being traded. Like Garlic=Rich Air, this project imagines a postcapitalist economy based on an alternative model of commodity exchange.

ITEM 2007.185 – available for viewing in the Research Centre

Videos, Artworks and Artists Cited

MilkShu Lea Cheang

Garlic = Rich AirShu Lea Cheang

Platinum SnapMeatShu Lea Cheang

I.K.U.Shu Lea Cheang

Video Pornography, Visual Pleasure, and the Return of the SublimeFranklin Melendez

Fresh KillShu Lea Cheang