CIPHER (2016) Katriona Beales
CIPHER (2016) Katriona Beales
CIPHER (2016) KBeales still sm
CIPHER (2016) KBeales still sm

CIPHER is an ephemeral, haunting figure of a woman, a semi-translucent, impermanent figure.

CIPHER’s movements are based on a 1934 film from the Wellcome Collection moving image library [1] showing female acrobats performing various contortions for the male medical gaze. As opposed to the sequined bikini of the acrobats, the surface of CIPHER’s body is a morphing pattern, generated by using a variation of Deep Dream [2] software.

CIPHER refuses to be stable, a denial expressed in her fleeting visits and her constantly changing surface.


“There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will… It is always the same shape… like a woman stooping down and creeping about…”

‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ (1892) Charlotte Perkins Gillman

CIPHER comes out of my ongoing research in internet addiction, information overload and ideas of a technological sublime. I’m interested in webspace as a psychotic environment, an equivalent to Perkins Gillman’s metaphorical nursery [3] – a site of surveillance and control. Webspace enables the virtual propagation of global inequalities – far removed from the dreams of the early net pioneers. Online, we actively participate in our own exploitation, knowingly complicit in algorithmic systems of control, always at work for an Other.

Gillman’s protagonist enables her own descent into psychosis by submitting to the administration of the rest cure; despite knowing it is causing her mental health problems. She is unable to resist the cultural and social forces around her [5]. Similarly, we are unable to resist what Berardi terms “ the constant mental electrocution of the Infosphere” [6], as we are increasingly submerged within the seductive beauty and endless imagery of online space.

[1] Watch here:


[3] Read the novella here:

[4] Interestingly, feminist readings of Gillman’s text suggest that she deliberately embraces psychosis as a way of escaping the confines of a claustrophobic marriage. Perhaps, we too deliberately embrace online addiction and the all-pervasive distractions of online environments as a way of escaping the claustrophobia of the physical.

[5] ‘The Soul at Work: from alienation to autonomy’ (2009) Franco Bifo Berardi