Taking care online doesn’t always mean hiding your surname from your Twitter followers.
Who’s looking at you online? How are they looking at you? How are you making them look at you?
These are some of the questions raised by Cyber Nectar, a new multi-disciplinary work of online art that explores what it really means to be a warm human being who pours themselves into the cold block of plastic in your pocket.
The work is the result of a three-month collaboration between artists Jordana Bragg and Hana Pera Aoake and curator Sophie Giblin, and is the first part of an on-going project called Lokal Stories, which looks at how groups of marginalised people interact with the internet.
Originally from Reading, England, Giblin came to New Zealand with a pretty clear idea for her next curated work.
“I was looking for someone gritty, feminist, political for my next project,” explains Giblin. “Exactly those three words. And someone just said - you have to meet Jordana Bragg.”
Bragg, a multi-disciplinary artist and graduate of Massey University’s Fine Arts programme, hooked up with Aoake of Auckland’s Fresh n Fruity Collective.
Both Bragg and Aoake have examined the all-important, all-encompassing “gaze” on the internet - what you look at, and how people look at you - and what that’s like as a young, queer Māori person.
“Hana and I grew up in a similar family set-up - where one side of our family is western, or white, and one side is Māori. We both identify as queer as well,” said Bragg.
“One theme that kept coming up is - is it enough, as a Māori person, to just exist online, or be good at what I do? Is that good, or Māori enough?
Because both Hana and I pass as white … But it very much is part of my worldview, and the art that I make. There’s nothing worse than having part of yourself denied, even online,” she said.
They’ve produced videos, podcasts and pieces of writing, including a self-care mantra for looking after yourself in the murky virtual realities of cyberspace.
The duo also ran a Twitter account for a week where Aoake posted over 2000 (painfully intimate) tweets in a week, which were all deleted by Bragg over a weekend, leaving the account blank.
An exhibition of Cyber Nectar’s work, The Gaze is Not Something You Have or Use (it is a relationship entered into) is currently showing at MEANWHILE Gallery in Wellington.
The exhibition encourages the subversion of the artist’s curatorial power by inviting artists outside of the project to respond to the work in a kind of visual conversation, says Giblin.
These “curatorial interventions” include work from international and local artists that bring a new perspective to the work based on the artist’s own experiences.
The interventions are crucial to an understanding of the exhibition as a conversation and ongoing process of development and discovery, says Giblin.
“I think it’s really important to not draw conclusions, because that’s so final. This kind of art is a process … But I think what we need to realise is that the patriarchy still exists online. The internet is a structure just like anything else."
"What was really valuable was taking a step back and thinking about why and how I use the internet… Nothing is devoid of context,” says Bragg.