I have been in Sumu A.i.R. residency for almost a week now, but half a year ago I had no idea it even existed. Back then I surfed online in order to find suitable residencies in Big Apple. I applied for two places in US when I suddenly discovered Sumu A.i.R. Since I regard myself a new media artist, I decided to give it a try. Here I am now, having no regrets. Titanik gallery staff, artists and other people here have been very helpful and nice. I was given a pink bike by the gallery, I live in the warm room and have got my own studio space.

One of my topics I have been working on for several years is gender. My 1st bigger gender-related project was MA project “Feminine Intuition” at Estonian Academy of Art 2007. I explored, how the expression “feminine intuition” is used in language and how it is connected with myths, politics, esoterics and our daily thinking. I built an installation of tires and pig fat and projected my video on the fat. It was my first installation. I have originally studied painting. Here is a link to my website gender topic: http://fideelia.future.ee/artwork/gender_studies.html

Recently I have been collecting photos and mottos from the people who are using online dating pages for finding a date. I find it interesting how people represent themselves to the prospective mates. Although majority of people think that gender is given by god or nature and is not the subject of questioning, I believe gender is socially constructed and reconstructing gender is a neverending process taking place in a human history. Kids learn already in the kindergarten, how to be a good girl or boy. People learn what is sexy and try to live up the ideals of popular culture. Many people on the pictures online are desperately trying to look sexy. They are the victims of social conditioning, which teaches us how to be sexually appealing. It often looks gross instead of sexy.

So I have been spending last few days in Turku, surfing in online dating pages. I have created my profiles in order to see users’ photos. Here is how my profile looks like in Treffit: http://treffit.suomi24.fi/showUserProfile.do?id=904218. As you can read, my profile was deleted and I had to recreate it. Some people have told me that my profile looks like those fake profiles of hot Russian women and that’s why it was deleted. Who knows?

My goal is to explore people’s self-representation online. The process would look like as following: I ask volunteer online daters to pose for my videocamera like they would pose for the dating portal in order to find the date. Model is free to choose, if she/he poses nude or dressed. While she/he is posing, she/he should say the sentence (otsikko or motto), which should make people to notice her/him. Usually people say something like: “Looking for real love.” Estonians favorite motto is “sunshine”, and since Estonia is situated in the same latitude as Alaska it is easy to see why. Both the pose and the sentence should make people to want to contact the model. I am not guiding the models. All they do must come from themselves and I simply record the action.

The second part of the action is a short interview where the model tells about her/his relationship goals, problems and thoughts. She/he talks in Finnish. I can’t speak Finnish which gives an extra twist to my work. I am planning to draw a mind map for each model. The mind map would be the reflection of the interview in my mind. Since I don’t know Finnish, I can draw new fresh conclusions and offer a witty, creative advice to the models in their relationship issues. In the long run I can compare the results with Estonians and also make comparison between the genders.

At the moment I am still in the phase of searching for models. I have got few people who seem to be sincerely interested of the topic and have promised to show up. Majority simply hopes that I am looking for the date. Here is the letter from 60-year old man: “Hi, cool girl! As it happens, I want to date you! I´m old but cool and in good shape. Cheers, Eki.” Hoping that he would agree to pose me, I wrote him and invited him to meet me in front of the church. I pointed out, that I am married and just looking for volunteers for my project, not for the date. He never showed up…

Here are some authors who have inspired me to work on gender and language:

1. Ariel Levy (2006) Female Chauvinist Pigs Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
2. Bourdieu, Pierre (2005) Male Domination Varrak Estonia
3.Fausto-Sterling, Anne (1985/1992) Myths of Gender BasicBooks New York
4. Fox Keller, Evelyn (2001) Reflections on Gender and Science. Tartu University Press
5. Rorty, Richard (1999) Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity Vagabund Estonia

Fideelia-Signe Roots