Sophie Robinson

Modern Edith


Modern Edith began as a multimedia response to Caroline Bergvall’s Goan AtomI was interested in the grotesque figure of the doll in the poems, an investigation into what Drew Milne describes as ‘the aesthetics of imaginary dolls in contemporary sexual politics.’1  The doll as consumer and sexual object conflated with the doll as grotesque subject to set up and problematise contemporary sexuality in relation to art history and contemporary consumer culture.  I was interested in using Flash to create my own doll, who would both represent a fetishised object of contemporary culture, and subversively reject this culture through excess and disgust. This doll, Edith, is made from old Barbie dolls, 1940s issues of Housewife magazine, felt pens, a scanner and a trial version of Flash MX. 

If, as Judith Butler states, ‘gender is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceed; rather, it is an identity tenuously constructed in time – an identity instituted through a stylised repetition of acts’,2 then Edith is constructed through the enhanced fetishisation and objectification of the female body enabled by the internet, and the repeated acts of constructing femininity advocated by the same media.  I wanted my Flash system to enable the ‘possibility of a different sort of repeating, in the breaking and subversive repetition of that style’.3  I set up the windows to run on a loop, and animated the doll eating and dancing in a jerky, primitive style.  The effect of this is a system of endless consumption and expulsion, beautification, flirtation. Through repetition, I wanted to create the effect of subverting and denaturalising these rituals by allowing them to become grotesque and excessive parodies of themselves.

The doll, as the subject of the piece, becomes a ‘posthuman’ figure in N. Katherine Hayles’ terminology, visibly ‘constituted as information’,4 glitches in the system making her tenuous existence as data in the space between pattern and randomness evident.  This also works metaphorically; I was interested in what Hayles writes about the ‘junk-as-information’5 market of late capitalism, and that influenced my creation of clothing for the doll out of fragments of advertising from Housewife magazine, creating ‘a rational subject who is always already constructed by the forces of capitalist markets’.6

In Speculum of the Other Woman, Luce Irigaray suggests that: ‘perhaps this is the time to stress technique again?  To renounce for the time being the sovereignty of thought in order to forge tools which will permit the exploitation of these resources’.7

I feel that the system I have created in Modern Edith is an example of the political possibilities and new forms that might come about when forging new systems, or, at least, new ways of using and exploiting existing tools and systems.  What I was trying to do in Modern Edith, more than anything, was to create a system in which existing materials are parodied in such a way that they feed into each other and demonstrate both the artificial social construction of gender and the potential woman-as-object dynamic which the Internet can perpetuate, exploiting this material to comment on itself and then placing it back into the context it came from.   

Click here to enter Modern Edith


[1] – Drew Milne, ‘A Veritable Dollmine’, Jacket 12 (accessed 10th April 2008) [Back to text]

[2] – Judith Butler, ‘Performative Acts and Gender Constitution’, Literary Theory: An Anthology, Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004) p. 900 [Back to text]

[3]Ibid, p. 901 [Back to text]

[4] – N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999) p. 42 [Back to text]

[5]Ibid, p. 42 [Back to text]

[6]Ibid, p. 87 [Back to text]

[7] – Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman, Trans. Gillian C. Gill (Ithica: Cornell University Press, 1985)  [Back to text]



Sophie Robinson was born in 1985.  She lives in London, where she is researching a PhD in Queer Poetics at Royal Holloway, University of London.  She has completed a BA in English Literature and an MA in Poetic Practice, also at Royal Holloway.  Her work has been featured in How2, Openned, Pilot and Dusie journals, and Les Figues Press are publishing her book a in winter 2008.