Martine Neddam (Mouchette) participates about artists’ uses of hypertext in the past and present in relation to gender. Martine herself will make an appearance at the New Museum on March 17.
In 1996, Neddam created a personal home page for a fictional character named Mouchette, a girl living in Amsterdam. For the next thirteen years, the true identity of Mouchette was a closely guarded secret, much debated in the net art community. It was understood as an artwork, but as Heather Warren-Crow points out in Girlhood and the Plastic Image, “some users of the site may not consider it to be art at all, but the real fantasies, fears, and confessions of an adolescent girl on the verge.”
This work makes use of hypertext—text that is organized in a nonlinear manner so that it can be read in any order. The hypertexts are to build empathy, perform identity, and model alternate social possibilities. This form was an important inspiration for Tim Berners-Lee’s 1989 proposal of the “WorldWideWeb,” which he described as a “HyperText Project.” Today, most online user experiences are organized around vertical scrolling processes or other sequential browsing formats, with hypertext playing a less central role. However, artists continue to find that the nonlinear structure of hypertext makes for productively fluid relationships among artists, characters, and audiences.
As an artist fascinated with the performative aspect of language, Neddam found through the Internet a space of freedom (especially at the time of Mouchette’s creation) which allowed her to “represent language and participation through language, while at the same time creating life, simulating life through a fictional character”. Neddam’s piece, not without reason, has been the object of much discussion in the field of hypermedia art. Not only did the artist explore the basic concepts of net.art, such as interactivity and fictional identity, but she did this using highly charged themes such as suicide and child pornography. The website at the time of its creation caused some very strong reactions.
Martine Neddam is a visual artist who has been working with internet virtual characters who lead an autonomous artistic existence in which the real author remains invisible. She has been exploring anonymously the concept of online identity through virtual characters such as Mouchette, David Still, XiaoQian, and the shared interface virtualperson.net. With MyDekstopLife she continues investigating identity in a browser by developing an original visual style and an inner voice.