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: Shooting from the hip
This work comprises 15 ammunition belts representing 15 days of 2016 – seven days before the federal election on 2 June, Election Day itself, and seven days after. The number of bullets in each belt corresponds to the number of abusive tweets aimed at Australian politicians on that day. The words embossed on each bullet holder are the abusive words that were contained in each tweet.
Each bullet is made from one sheet of A4 copy paper – at once referencing bureaucracy and also reminding us of the power of both paper and words. Just as we may not consider the potential damage caused by our off-hand remarks on social media, we may also not consider that a piece of paper could injure. Yet, when rolled into a bullet shape, the paper could cause considerable damage if used as a projectile.
SHOOTING FROM THE HIP