A Guide To Softer Ware is a collaborative exploration of contemporary and not-so-contemporary languages of instruction in the context of “womanhood”, calling out their binary notions of gender designation as a social construct. Through analysing their own behavior as socialised women, and simultaneously analysing guides by women addressing other women about how to be a woman, Charlotte Rohde and Vera van de Seyp expose the idea of the manual as a (self-)imposed directive, trapped between the imperative to be unconditionally affirmed and the need to be in charge of one’s own narrative.
The format of the manual is used here as a rhetorical construct that explores how the social roles of women have been impacted by the rise of new technologies from the second half of the 20th century until now. With their shared background ranging from (type-)design to creative coding, Charlotte Rohde and Vera van de Seyp (quite literally) deconstruct and reprogramme these languages of instruction: From the wording used in 1960s technical manuals for sewing machines, knitting machines and various domestic appliances addressing women as a new target group to Memes and YouTube tutorials as a phenomenon representing the contemporary internet culture of self-optimization.
With their Guide To Softer Ware the two artists reflect on the supposed need for guidance and the forms this guidance has historically taken and still takes. The exhibition at soft power presents new works by the two artists that may function as a manual for the spectators and simultaneously as type specimens. The use of tools and typography, soap and metal, software and code (and ultimately, the use of the body itself), invites us to question the „softness“ historically/conventionally/subconsciously assigned to certain materials and spaces, to gender and its construction.