Entanglements: an exploration of the digital literary work FISHNETSTOCKINGS

Mermaids as Trans


FISHNETSTOCKINGS is also a remix– and feminist reconsideration of– the mermaid myth that has been swallowed by the whale that is the Walt Disney corporation. We see in this piece some of the strategies artist and scholar micha cardenas identifies in Poetic Operations: Trans of Color Art in Digital Media (Duke UP, 2022), for much of mermaid mythology is a trans mythology, a mythology of characters engaged in physical transformation tied to identity.  In that book, cardenas offers the “trans color operations” of shifting, stitching, and cutting as “ritual resistance that is an old, old algorithm” (177). We argue that artists Rock, Aune, and Aune along with all the artists, the programmers, dancers, writers, and participants shift, stitch, and cut up the mermaid myth in order to explore the many dimensions of mermaids that The Little Mermaid film (and its offshoots) wash over.

In FISHNETSTOCKINGS, I see at play what micha cardenas calls “trans of color operations.”  

Although the artists are not trans, the material is. The Little Mermaid in Disney’s renderings may be a skinny, white girl with red hair, but the many depictions of mermaids over the years suggest that are not only outside of some white-washed identity but that they are symbols of alterity.  

In Poetic Operations, cardenas specifies three practices: cutting, shifting, and stitching.  Cutting “is an operation that helps identify the parts of the algorithm…for spaces of intraction” (3). Shifting “is a gesture of modulating one’s perceptibility by changing one’s form, location, or appearance” (72). Stitching “is the operation attaching various parts together…essential to both intersectionality and assemblage” (3).  

In FISHNETSTOCKINGS, the first cut is to separate mermaids from the film adaptation that has so dominated the story, freeing from its patriarchal gender and white supremecist politics. The “shift” is not only the mermaids transition between forms, but the many transformations between paper in the digital from three dimensional life to two-dimensional representations in the code, from viewer to entangled interactor.  Finally, the stitching is the collage-aesthetic combination of all of these pieces of art (dance, paper cuts, text) as well as the stitching together of forms to make mermaids, merships, and jellyboids.

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