Drawing on her background in arts engagement, fondness for English literature and affinity for pop culture, Rose Larsen’s curatorial debut, ‘Two Factor Authentication’, currently showing at the ‘South Australian Living Artists (SALA) Festival’, is nothing short of chameleonic. As SALA’s CoA Emerging Curator, Larsen uses her diverse interests and experience to mediate on the murky façade of digital identity, technological progress, and the gospel of Twitter.
Larsen explains, ‘Technological development is used to illustrate the way society has progressed and can often be used as a symbol of the achievements of a civilisation.’
‘The pace and nature of technological development is used to signpost the fracturing of dominant systems and worldviews, changing everything about how we live and interact with each other,’ continues Larsen. ‘Narratives of this kind invoke a fear of the unknown – to oppose some of the systematic problems that have accompanied a rapid technological development.’
Drawing on popular culture and its depiction of such development (The Matrix, Blade Runner and Black Mirror, to name a few), Larsen unpacks public perceptions of technological advances and how to understand its power and potential in 2021. ‘A lot of the work engages with this concept of inscription – building up layers and traces of digital marks and identity. In a way, I see my curatorial work as another layer of meaning for these artworks,’ she says. ‘The exhibition is based on my personal response to the works – informed by the experiences I’ve had, the books I’ve read, the films I’ve seen.’
Incorporating the works of South Australian artists including Tom Borgas, Cameron Longshaw, Dainis Zakis, Frances Cohen, Danny Jarratt and Emmaleise Maxwell, Larsen seeks to understand different facets of digital identity through an immersive experience merging analogue and digital production methods.
‘Digital identity and the technological self is pulled in so many different directions throughout the exhibition,’ Larsen says.
Borgas illustrates the idea most explicitly. His work directly inserts a speculative digital object into the physical world, forcing viewers to see and acknowledge the way digital connection has changed their lives by putting a shape and form to these networks. Longshaw’s work, however, takes mediation as a literal term, wherein the viewer’s line of sight is physically mediated by the insertion of a Perspex screen.
Zaikis engages directly with ideas of originality, creation and worth as his artmaking process is computer-driven and technical. For example, Zaikis converts photos of places and people into vector shapes and recreates them on canvas with acrylic paint. It is, in a sense, the artist’s version of running a page through Google Translate and back again, Larsen explains.
Cohen explores the collision that occurs when you take the curated digital self out of the digital realm and into the physical one – viewing how others see and impose their own understandings of individuality. Jarratt focuses on the queer experience of time and how the identity and education of the LGBTQ+ community is often discovered through online forums and resources. Lastly, Maxwell’s collages invoke identity in a more abstract way. They explore how image manipulation and traditional collaging techniques can elicit an emotional memory response to something you’ve never seen before.
‘The other ‘intention’ for this exhibition, I think, is to tease out these notions of digital identity and expose how in a contemporary world they’re evident in everything, and everywhere,’ Larsen says. ‘These artists, at all stages of their lives and careers, have each had different experiences with forming a digital identity. This makes for a very interesting dialogue throughout the exhibition.’
Olivia De Zilva is an award-winning writer and arts critic from Adelaide, South Australia.
Adelaide City Library
4 August to 1 October 2021