A Conceptual Artist Programming for Social Change

  • Rachel Ara
  • Tula Giannini
Part of the Springer Series on Cultural Computing book series (SSCC)


Rachel Ara describes herself as a conceptual and data artist, whose work brings to light the trials and tribulations of women in a male dominated world. Through her art, she summons disparate elements from past to present, physical and digital, recalling histories of feminism and memories of women in an alien world. We see red neon lights and red-light districts, Florentine nuns in the shuttered silence of cloisters weaving cloth in codes. We are experiencing the artworks of Rachel Ara that conjure vivid feminist images and convey powerful messages about women’s states of being and consciousness, and consider issues of gender and sexuality, a theme that runs through her work. By comparison, the 2017 exhibition at the Tate Britain, Queer British Art, 18611967, put on view mostly familiar works of women by male artists, and reframed them as works by queer artists living at a time when that identity seemed camouflaged. As gender and sexual identity have come to the fore, queer art and artists take more visible forms of gender expression. In this new and emerging approach, Ara takes a lead position for conveying, and putting before us, a female perspective where the artist and her art are one. Using the sophisticated means of production that she has mastered, from computing, technology, systems and data analytics, all part of her palette of artistic expression, her art takes its place at the intersection of the digital and physical worlds. She is not married to one mode of making art, as she considers what is possible and what is practical, but in either case, it is her passion for art as an expression of ideas that provoke the viewer to think critically about issues of contemporary life. You might say that Ara is a “postdigital” artist who delves deeply into these issues, and speaks with an authentic voice uniquely hers, and this is reflected in her aesthetic sense of hands-on highly skilled methods of working that meld computing and programming, woodworking and technology, for making art and making a difference.

Further Reading

  1. Aesthetica (2015) Rachel Ara: reactive systems. Aesthetica Magazine, 15 Aug 2015. Accessed 12 Jan 2019
  2. Ara R (2017a) The making of a digital (master) piece. In Bowen JP, Diprose G, Lambert N (eds) EVA London 2017 conference proceedings. Electronic Workshops in Computing (eWiC), BCS, pp 327–334.
  3. Ara R (2017b) This much I’m worth. Accessed 12 Jan 2019
  4. Ara R (2018a) About—Rachel Ara. Accessed 27 Jan 2019
  5. Ara R (2018b) Transubstantiation of Knowledge. Accessed 27 Jan 2019
  6. Elgammal A (2018) When the line between machine and artist becomes blurred. The Conversation, 16 Oct 2018. Accessed 12 Jan 2019
  7. Feldman R (2018) VARI Artist Rachel Ara introduces mixed reality nuns to the V&A. V&A Blog, Victoria and Albert Museum, UK, 15 Aug 2018. Accessed 12 Jan 2019
  8. Groys B (2017) Art, technology, and humanism. E-Flux, 82, May 2017. Accessed 12 Jan 2019
  9. Pes J (2018) As museums across Europe Grapple with new data protection regulations, one artist is pushing them to think differently. Artnet News, 5 July 2018. Accessed 12 Jan 2019
  10. Pickford J (2018) Artist Rachel Ara poses unsettling questions for the art world. Special report. FT Wealth, Financial Times, 17 June 2018. Accessed 12 Jan 2019
  11. Schneider T, Rea N (2018) Has artificial intelligence given us the next great art movement? Experts say slow down, the ‘Field Is in Its Infancy’. Artnet News, 25 Sept 2018. Accessed 12 Jan 2019
  12. Solanas V (1968) Scum Manifesto. Olympia PressGoogle Scholar
  13. Stinson E (2018) What artists can teach us about making technology more human. Wired, 5 May 2018. Accessed 12 Jan 2019
  14. Sussman AL (2019) The challenges female artists face mid-career. Artsy, 11 Jan 2019. Accessed 14 Jan 2019
  15. V&A (2018) ‘The Transubstantiation of Knowledge’ by Rachel Ara. London Design Festival 2018, Victoria and Albert Museum, UK, 15–23 Sept 2018. Accessed 27 Jan 2019
  16. Whitechapel Gallery (2018) The London open catalogue. Whitechapel Gallery, UKGoogle Scholar
  17. WIA (2018) WIA artist profile: Rachel Ara. WIA, 7 Dec 2018. Accessed 27 Jan 2019
  18. Widewalls (2017) The serious relationship of art and technology. Editorial, Widewalls, 25 July 2017. Accessed 12 Jan 2019
  19. Zhexi G (2018) Art versus Silicon Valley: are artists losing the conceptual advantage? Frieze, 25 Sept 2018. Accessed 12 Jan 2019

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel Ara
    • 1
  • Tula Giannini
    • 2
  1. 1.LondonUK
  2. 2.School of InformationPratt InstituteNew YorkUSA

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