The MUTEK Recorder
Episode 02: Mindy Seu
Claire L. Evans
Mindy SeuMindy Seu is a deep thinker about publishing, research, and archives, her recent projects include the much lauded Cyberfeminism Index, which compiled feminist provocations from Donna Haraway’s essay “A Cyborg Manifesto” through present day, providing an invaluable public resource. The New York-based designer is currently undertaking research stints with the MIT Media Lab Poetic Justice group and metaLab Harvard.
“Hypertext has really been around since the origins of the printed word, if you think about bibliographies, footnotes, indexes—all of these things influenced the cross-referencing systems that we currently see as hyperlinks.”
Mindy Seu, on how hypertext as a concept existed long before HTML
The central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law, the Talmund’s importance extends beyond Judaism. Noting how the ancient book’s two layers of margins surrounding the primary text make room for scholarship on the original, and then a second layer of scholarship responding to the first layer, the Talmund radically imagines books as ‘conversations in progress’ rather than fixed and bound things. Cited as a precedent by Ted Nelson and other hypertext pioneers, Seu has internalized the logic of the Talmund in Cyberfeminism Index and other participatory publications and projects.
“The Talmud is the primary theological and religious text of Judaism, but it is also the primary influence for the modern concept of digital hypertext.”
Mindy Seu, pointing to an ancient precedent
“I was thinking about the record in two forms as both a noun and a verb. So for the ‘Cyberfeminism Index’ the verb form is how you are recording this revisionist history in progress and retroactively—but also thinking about the record.”
Mindy Seu, on making a ‘living’ archive
Commissioned by Rhizome, and facilitated and gathered by Seu, Cyberfeminism Index launched in 2020. The site offers a deep archive of hundreds of critical gender studies texts, manifestos, and inititiatives. To aid in navigating its voluminous collection, its interface includes curated ‘collections’ by key voices including original cyberfeminists VNS Matrix, bio-hacker Mary Maggic, and the xenofeminist collective Laboria Cuboniks.
“As you scroll through, everything that you click is captured in what we call the ‘side panel trail,’ so this is whether intuitive or intentional, we’re trying to build connections between what catches your eye and what you’re trying to build upon.”
Mindy Seu, on visualizing the thought and connection-making that goes on when we browse an archive
“We also embedded a lot of cross-references to either juxtapose or support a lot of the different entries—there are over 750 entries currently, and growing…”
Mindy Seu, on creating different ways to move across and through the Cyberfeminism Index
Cyberfeminism CatalogThe precursor to Cyberfeminism Index, Cyberfeminism Catalog was Seu‘s 2019 thesis project at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Much of the legwork for the index was done here, and Seu collected, collated, and ruminated on the origins of 1980s and ’90s origins of cyberfeminism, ”pushing it into plain sight for others to respond and build upon,” in print before HTML.
“I imagine you had to get in touch with a lot of people to build this index, I wonder how you see the relationship between archives and communities and how they create or inform one another?”
Claire L. Evans, asking about the people and stories, rather than rows and columns, that comprise Cyberfeminism Index
“There’s an anecdote that I like, this project started in response to the The New Woman’s Survival Catalog which was a feminist response to the Whole Earth Catalog and its publishers made that resource by getting in a car and driving across America and visiting grassroots organizing sites on their trip.”
Mindy Seu, on how a road trip and a feminist ‘survival catalog’ are the distant ancestors of Cyberfeminism Index