Inside Outsourcing

Mixing low and high technologies, Katherine Behar makes hybrid forms that embody intersections of gender, race, and class in contemporary digital labor.

Artist Bio

Katherine Behar became interested in basket weaving when a basket-making how-to book surprised her with a claim that basketry is the only mass-produced process to resist mechanical automation. Since Behar’s practice centers on automation, this caught her eye. Are container ship loads of baskets made by hand because robots don’t have dexterity for fine manipulation? Or because exploited humans remain cheaper than machines? How could an art project broach computational labor’s extractivism, even countering that logic by fostering collaboration with robots, rather than pitting humans and robots against one another in a race to the bottom? Like prior works, Inside Outsourcing stages living with more-than-humans to promote solidarity and care. A series of sculptures will display limits to robotic basket production as expert human basket weavers and Behar caringly recuperate robots’ mistakes into unique vessels. A video will capture an absurd attempt at remote group puppetry: using full-body motion capture, a group of performers will each operate a robotic finger to undertake the humble first step needed to begin the process of basket weaving: merely picking up a piece of straw. Differences in scale (full body/finger), detail (blunt/dexterous), and collectivity (group/digit), will echo the enormous disproportion in effort when robotic hands literally grasp at straws through a group’s coordinated efforts. Keeping robotics mostly offscreen will highlight the unrecognizable choreography of smushing, straining bodies at work, contorting to conform to machine readability.

Award Year

In Progress

Creative Capital Carnival 2023

Photo by Marianne M. Kim.

Katherine Behar

Brooklyn, NY

Katherine Behar is an interdisciplinary artist and critical theorist of new media. Through feminism and materialism, she explores gender, race, class, and labor in contemporary digital culture. She is known for projects that mix low and high technologies to create hybrid forms that are by turns humorous and sensuous. Behar’s artwork is exhibited throughout North America and Europe and held in private collections. Data’s Entry | Veri Girişi, a survey exhibition and catalog documenting eight years of work, was presented at Pera Museum. Additional solo exhibitions include Backups, appearing at Framingham State University and E-Waste, premiering with a catalog at the University of Kentucky and traveling to Boston Cyberarts Gallery. Behar is developing an ambitious interactive robotic installation, Anonymous Autonomous, which received work-in-progress solo exhibitions at Robert Morris University and the University of Michigan. Behar writes and lectures widely on her work and object-oriented feminism, decelerationist aesthetics, and artificial ignorance (terms she coined in 2010, 2012, and 2018, respectively). She is the editor of Object-Oriented Feminism (University of Minnesota Press, 2016), coeditor of And Another Thing: Nonanthropocentrism and Art (Punctum Books, 2016), and author of Bigger than You: Big Data and Obesity (Punctum Books, 2016). Her writing has been translated into Turkish, Portuguese, Russian, Lithuanian, and Spanish.

Photo by Marianne M. Kim.