In 2016 I had the honour of being a Visiting Artist Fellow at the Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Social Science, as part of the ANU Vice-Chancellor's College Visiting Artist Fellows Scheme. I collaborated with Dr Robert Ackland who is developing new methods for studying networks on the World Wide Web, including the visualisation of data and analysis of social networks. Dr Ackland provided me with a steady stream of data detailing the levels of abuse directed at Australian politicians on Twitter, allowing me to explore my interest in society's capacity for 'digital rage'.
Access to this data has given me the opportunity to discuss the use of abusive language on social media as a new and accepted form of public discourse – a digital version of toilet door graffiti, with users eagerly slandering and defaming public figures. The resulting work I have created is part data visualisation and part social commentary – inspired and informed by data, and expressed through the physicality and emotive language of sculpture.
We the people: Sub rosa
'Sub rosa' is a Latin term that translates to 'under the rose' and means 'done in secret'. The rose is an ancient symbol of secrecy – I've used this motif to highlight that even though we may tweet and post in private, nothing we say on social media is truly private or secret. I wondered what it would look like if the many thousands of abusive tweets to, from or about Australian politicians during 2015/16, were represented as 100 roses of four different sizes reflecting different levels of abuse – mild, medium, strong or strongest.
The resulting work simulates a casket spray – the floral arrangement seen on a casket during a funeral service. Its death references, including the choice of black paper, relate to what I see as the death of polite society, of social etiquette and informed debate.