Code, non-human


ShShSh self-organized group
I DO understand you, but I CANNOT SPEAK, 2020–2021

VR game, plasma screens, engraved acrylic glass, epoxy floor
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artists

With over 30 female artists as its members, the self-organized group ShShSh describes itself as a non-hierarchical multitude of independent units. Each member has their own personal mythology and working strategy, but together they form a single collective body, operating via chaotic horizontal connections. An important part of their practice is the study of the mechanics of the group’s internal interactions, including in the digital space. In Body Horror Performance (2020) the artists created a changeable “new monster” by mixing audio and video materials during a Zoom meeting, inspired by Dr. Frankenstein’s experiments. Following a similar procedure, in their desktop jam Vulnerability/Sustainability/ Now (2020), they indulged in collective therapeutic meditations on limitations and transformations during lockdown.

In I DO Understand You, But I CANNOT SPEAK, ShShSh’s experiments in virtual interactions and discovering their current digital identities enter a new stage: from performative Zoom meetings they move on to the temporality of the communal life of their avatars within a single digital house. The house is designed as a safe communal space, well-suited to the participants’ reflexive study of their own practices, a kind of digital homage to Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro’s Womanhouse. The appearance and traits of each character reflect their creator’s interests. The “werewolf” of Viktoria Chupakhina, who researches human-animal interactions from a posthumanist perspective, is a human-dog hybrid; Tatyana Sherstyuk’s “fluffy cookie” turns into an “angry god,” pointing to the deceptive nature of appearances, as in Sherstyuk’s other projects; the “dark matter” of Sasha Puchkova deforms the space around it, and, like the artist herself, works with the poetics of automatic writing.

Viewers are invited to observe this experiment in avatars’ communal living on plasma screens or using VR headsets, but with certain conditions (they cannot enter the house), which creates an interdependent system of relationships between the observer and the observed. The private routines inside the house are open to the external gaze, but even when viewers enter the virtual world with a VR headset, for the inhabitants they are no more than random passers-by.