In Memoriam: Nathalie Magnan (November 29, 1956–October 15, 2016)

Nathalie Magnan (November 29, 1956–October 15, 2016)


Media activist and queer cyber-feminist Nathalie Magnan died in Marseille, France, on October 15, of metastasized breast cancer. She had skirmished with the invasion for 10 years, and died as she had wished: quietly, with dignity, at home, in the presence of two of her loves: Reine Prat and Catherine Lord.

Magnan received an MFA from the Visual Studies Workshop in 1983, and went on, in 1985, to enter the PhD program in the History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz. There, she studied with Donna Haraway, Teresa de Lauretis, Helene Moglen, and Jim Clifford. She worked with DeeDee Halleck at Paper Tiger Television and, with Halleck, made El Gringo in Mananaland (1994). She taught at various institutions during her career: Chapman College, Paris VIII, the Ecole supérieure des beaux arts in Dijon, and the Ecole nationale supérieure d’art in Bourges. A founder of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival as well as the Paris Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, she was a pioneer in the representation of gays, lesbians, queers, and trans in film and video. She made key shorts for CanalPlus in Paris, including Lesborama (1995). She worked to democratize the web and digital media in both Anglophone and Francophone worlds, programming for the Centre Pompidou and participating in Black Market for Useful Knowledge in 2015. She was instrumental in the translation into French of key texts by Haraway under the title Manifeste cyborg et autres essais (editions Exils, 2007) as well as the anthologies La Vidéo, entre art et communication (Paris, ensb-a, 1997) and, with Annick Bureaud, Connexion, art, réseaux, media (Paris, ensb-a, 2002).

Nathalie Magnan, it should be said, was as much at home on the waves as she was on the web. She had sailed the Atlantic, and was also the captain of two international media communications projects that attempted to combine the rigorous logics of sailing and of cybertechnology: Sailing for Geeks 1 (off Finland, 2004) and Sailing for Geeks 2 (off Gibraltar, 2005). The lived precarity and the indelible exhilaration of steering a small boat on deep seas were far more than metaphors in Magnan’s creative work. As a cyberfeminist activist, the wind behind her sails involved practicality, collaboration and a keen eye for both pleasure and danger. The world is smaller without her presence, but she trained and influenced generations of students, formal and informal, known affectionately as “les bébés Magnan.”


—Catherine Lord

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