Week 9 – Frida Kahlo Was A Hacker

Natalia Cecire’s “Introduction: Theory and the Virtues of Digital Humanities” discusses the concept of hackers. She quotes from Tad Suiters, “a hacker is a person who looks at systemic knowledge structures and learns about them from making or doing.” Ultimately hackers are autodidacts, she quotes him. Speaking of autodidacts, I immediately thought of Frida Kahlo. Though not involved with the technology we frequent today, she was was a self taught artist. After being temporarily immobilized from an accident, Frida Kahlo picked up painting and then pursued painting instead of her intended course of medicine. Could we consider her as a hacker of her time however? I would say so. She was an active communist and feminist and depicted such themes in her artwork thus displaying her knowledge about systemic structures.

How Frida ties into media is in this manner. This Thanksgiving weekend (which I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable one) I was looking at items online as anyone would for the sales to come. I stumbled upon this:


frida iphone case

One would expect that someone who owns such a case would be a fan of Frida Kahlo. However, if one were a fan of Frida then one would know that she detested capitalism and abhorred industrialization. These were ideals she lived by and believed in. What has been created is taking her identity and turned it into a commodity that has been mass produced and sold in a consumer oriented society. Ironic.

I did some searching around and found gems like this:


in which the author white-washes her identity in a postcard.

Instead of using these hackers as goals, we see them being used as idols to manipulate. Something to consider is glorification of hackers today and the diminishing value of actually being an autodidact. Cecire quotes Stephen Ramsay that “digital humanities is characterized by a “move from reading to making.” My observation is a lack of self-taught making. Instead there is a flux of re-creating from original source and then the multiplication of these recreations.

One rare example of inspired creation is Aarthi Parthasarathy. She enjoyed Wondermark’s Victorian era woodcut cartoons so much she decided to use Indian Mughal art to create her own cartoons called Royal Existentials.

Here is an example of Wondermark:

Here is Royal Existentials:



(Click to make bigger)

So are hackers becoming fewer? Is it more popular to idolize hackers rather than become one?