A while back I interviewed May Waver… over text. We talked technology, ASMR, and the deep web.
May Waver is a multimedia artist located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her artwork explores intimacy, connection and experience. She holds a BA in Studio Art as well as a BA for Health & Society from Beloit College.
I was wondering if we could talk about the connection between technology and nature. What is it and how is it relevant?
On a large scale, every single thing is connected and is implicated in everything else, or somehow affects everything else. “Technology” and “nature” are often pitted against each other as opposites, or as mutually exclusive ideas, but ultimately they’re both human constructs that exist together in the same world. To me, both of those words carry heavy baggage and come with a lot of different agendas. When you say technology, how do you personally mean it?
I mean technology in the sense of anything that advances society but most those that are luxuries like internet as a main one or even things like electric can openers.
Gotcha. So yeah, I think the idea of “technology” means different things to everyone and it can take some effort to even understand what people are talking about when they talk about technology, or nature for that matter.
There’s just so much that goes in to it! Do you think society is losing nature more and more? Is it being pushed to the background in your opinion?
I think that presumes that “nature” is something static. Maybe whatever we used to categorize as “nature” is becoming more difficult to cling to and box in. But the environment has always been in flux. We’re definitely destroying ecosystems, and technological innovation is very much implicated in that. Basically, I don’t buy the idea that “nature is good and technology is bad,” or “technology is good and nature is bad,” because both are constructions and both exist together in everything. They’re inseparable.
I agree and think it’s important to reject this idea that either is inherently bad. Both have their place. I also want to talk about something I heard you say in your digital gallery video. The term cyber feminism is an interesting one to me. Could you define and talk a bit about cybertwee?
Cybertwee is the name of an art collective I co-founded with Violet Forest and Gabriella Hileman in 2014. The central idea is to advocate for femme aesthetics and femme-authored narratives in art, and especially art that incorporates new technologies. Cyber meaning related the the internet, and twee meaning cute/soft/girly, whatever that loos like for different people. Not a monolithic femininity, but a multiplicity of fractured / cyborg femininity.
For people who don’t know; what is ASMR and what are its “powers?”
ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, which sounds very official, but it’s just a name that arose on the Internet in the mid-2000s to describe a tingly head and neck sensation some people experience when triggered by various sounds and visuals. Also described as a “brain orgasm” by some people. Many of the common triggers share a certain gentleness, softness, precision, and domestic familiarity. Like long fingernails tapping on a keyboard, the sound of whispering up close, crinkly paper or plastic, hairbrushes, etc.
So how do you feel connected to this? Do these videos serve an artistic purpose for you?
I love watching ASMR videos for a lot of reasons, but I guess the primary one is that they do actually provide some relief when I’m feeling anxious or sleepless. I think this is the case for a lot of people – they’re like a therapy you can access on YouTube, along with other kinds of meditation and such. But I also just enjoy them because they can be pleasurable and sometimes very emotionally compelling.
I also liked the bake sell you had on the deep web. Can you talk about the main concept and objectives?
The deep web bake sale was a project I worked on with Gabriella Hileman and Violet Forest. We wanted to demystify the deep web, a space that’s often associated with nefarious activities. So we made a kickstarter, and people who participated learned how to buy bitcoins, use the tor network to access our site on the deep web, and buy our handmade rosewater cookies anonymously. We want people to feel welcomed into learning about online privacy and related topics, and do so in a way that’s femme-centered.
I wanted to ask you then what role you would say exclusion plays in art, if any?
I think the entire notion of what gets to be art, what art gets recognized, shown, and where, is very very reliant on exclusion. And I don’t think we (cybertwee) alone can change that, but we do feel that we have some power to shape the kind of inclusionary world we want to create in our own practice. Women and femmes have been systematically excluded from the western art world since its earliest beginnings, so in our own way, we are creating space for femininities to be celebrated in art (and technology!)
May’s work can be found at Maywaver.com or on her instagram @Maywaver