KA Bird

But who is the gay4pay girlboss goals and who is the computer-generated anthropomorphic AI advertisement start-up, 2023

Acrylic on board

Painting80 x 120 x 2cmShips from United Kingdom


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About the Artist

KA Bird (b.1992, UK) is a queer, visual artist based in Newcastle, UK. Using digital media to inform her print-making and painting, her practice is about harnessing the processes and strategies of information circulation, investigating the human in technology, and the technological in the human within the all-out integration of internet and world. She received her MA with distinction in Fine Art from MIMA School of Art, and was awarded a place on the Collective Studio Development Program at The NewBridge Project, where she is a current studio holder.

About the Artwork

The title plays on that question gay women are often asked “…so like which one of you is the man?” The question in the title of my work asks what forms of queer representation are palatable/acceptable and who gets to make them?

The work loosely refers to an ad campaign by a famous fashion brand from 2019 in which a supermodel heiress kisses virtual Instagram influencer Lil Miquela for the purposes of selling clothes. LM is a beautiful CGI, 19-year old girl-shaped advertising vehicle, owned and developed by a digital media start-up. She presents like a sentient robot on her social media accounts, an individual who is socially conscious and politically active, in a way that deliberately mirrors the millennial/gen-z audience she is targeted at.

The technology behind LM is unclear but she is an avatar – a fictional character with a cute backstory more comparable with the Compare the Market meerkats. LM has advocated for charities supporting LGBTQ+ rights and BLM etc. on her Instagram but it’s difficult to reconcile the purported interest in these causes when a. she is not real and b. the company behind her has generated millions of dollars’ worth of investment from venture capital firms and ad revenues in partnering with luxury fashion brands.

The problem of the advertising industry editing, smoothing, tucking, objectifying and/or otherwise projecting some unreality onto women’s bodies is obviously vast and well documented. This iteration does away with the messy and corruptible female body entirely, in favour of an infinitely mutable, ageless virtual one. I find this depiction so interesting because LM is supposed to be aspirational, “goals”, desirable etc. but without any of the drawbacks that comes with actually inhabiting a physical body unlike most of her audience. To consider her representative of a typical teen, there first must be a pretty serious suspension of disbelief. It’s a commodification of the sensibilities and priorities of the self-aware and socially progressive.

Like LM, the super model also embodies a type of unreality. Profound personal wealth, physical beauty and global influence is utterly unobtainable and wholly outside the lived reality of most other people, let alone women/queers/gender non-conforming people. The overt message within the ad is of personal emancipation, which is kind of redundant when it’s delivered with a for-profit motive by someone who can claim little first-hand experience of oppression.
The issue is of course heaps more complicated. It is absolutely necessary for non-heteronormative bodies and narratives to be represented in all facets of our visual culture. Fashion is a constituent part of an individual’s identity and a vital means of self-expression and community building. Brands have hits as well as misses in ads geared towards the LGBTQ+ community. There are more ostensibly positive examples too.

The aim of the work is to probe at the unauthentic and profit-motivated co-opting of queer identity and issues of performative allyship broadly, with a tongue-in-cheek humour and not to attack or single-out any individual or company. The issue of representation is not just about who is standing in front of the camera, but who is standing behind it.