Mary Flanagan has been writing about digital art since the 1990s, with a particular focus on virtual spaces and games. She has long investigated the impact of feminist and alternative performances on the internet, beginning with Adriene Jenik and Lisa Brenneis’ Waiting for Godot that took place in a visual chat room and Helen Thorington, Marek Walczak, and Jesse Gilbert’s online VRML world Adrift. “There were many such early experiments that inspired me to think of the possibilities inherent in the construction of online worlds,” notes Flanagan, “Yet many of the most radical pieces didn’t receive the attention they deserve, and some still don’t, so I’m interested in witnessing and analyzing these lesser known works to shed light on new ways of thinking about art.” Flanagan is the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor of Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College and leads the design research laboratory Tiltfactor.org.
“Flanagan uses gaming as a departure point to speak to much broader sociopolitical issues as well as the relationship between digital art and its art historical context,” reflects juror Kathleen Forde on the committee’s decision to select Flanagan as the winner in the established category.
Flanagan is the author of Critical Play: Radical Game Design (MIT, 2009) and co-author of Values at Play in Digital Games (2014) and Similitudini. Simboli. Simulacri(Unicolpi, 2005). She is co-editor of the collections Reload: Rethinking Women in Cyberculture (MIT, 2003) and Re:Skin (MIT, 2006). Throughout her career, she has been interested in women’s relationship to technology, games, and activism, pushing against dominant notions of technology and culture. She is currently at work on a series of popular essays that bring to light the “buried” history of diverse digital artists. With the Arts Writing Award, Flanagan will build on her research of 20 years, focusing on recent, global developments in digital art to bring lesser-known artists—in particular, women and people of color—to broader attention.
Mary Flanagan received $40,000 in recognition of her sustained dedication to the field as an established arts writer.