One could say I am the mother of the Internet in Yugoslavia, the mother of this domain. — Borka Jerman Blažič
Borka Jerman Blažič, a professor at the University of Ljubljana, was one of two women computer scientists who were integral to the inception and growth of the Internet in Yugoslavia in 1991. The domain that Blažič claims as her offspring is .yu—the Internet sufﬁx for a country that, at the time of .yu’s birth, was breaking apart. This little-known story is the subject of From Yu to Me (2014), a film by artist Aleksandra Domanović, who was born in 1981 in what was then the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Her film unearths a narrative about how technological infrastructures quietly inﬂuence and contradict geopolitical realities, but refuses to present itself as an authoritative account. From Yu to Me is one of a number of works by Domanović that creates speculative narratives in order to reveal deeply personal interconnections between people and technology—speciﬁcally women and technology.
In Things to Come (2014), named after an early sci-fi film written by H. G. Wells, the viewer can walk through a series of images suspended from the ceiling. Drawing from popular science fiction, including such films as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Blade Runner, Alien, Prometheus, and Snow White, Domanović presents her female subjects as both victim and powerful embodiment of technological infrastructure. In her book Zeros + Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture, author, artist, and cyber-feminist Sadie Plant also refers to this deep connectedness, writing that “before their beginnings and beyond their ends, women have been the simulators, assemblers, and programmers of the digital machines.” Domanović similarly asserts that the women of Things to Come, while at the mercy of machines, are integral to the machine itself.
This unifying thread of embodiment can be seen throughout Mother of This Domain. The Belgrade Hand—developed in 1963 by Serbian scientist Rajko Tomović as the first responsive prosthetic device—appears in both From Yu to Me and Things To Come, and a 3D model of it serves as the basis for a series of sculptures titled SOHO (Substances of Human Origin) (2015). Here, humanity and machine are once again deeply entangled as extracted teeth, clasped hands, and an ultrasound device seem to transcend any delineation between substances of human origin and cyborg technologies. Never portrayed as dystopian, Domanović’s return to this motif simply asks viewers to look closer at the ways that technology is already a part of them.
The Internet forms the backbone of Domanović’s research, allowing her to create her own narratives— ones that correspond directly to the rise of the Internet and the collapse of her home in the former Yugoslavia. Her research, driven by personal history and curiosity, reveals much about how knowledge and public discourse are created in the age of technology.
Organized by Plug In ICA, Winnipeg, and presented in partnership with Oakville Galleries