Grace Kingston: Grace+

ISBN: 978-0-9873458-0-6

Grace+ is a social ‘habitat’ translating social networking from it’s online form back into the real. So interconnected that there may not be any more room for you to fit within it. the items that make up a space for living are accessible from all sides, yet you cannot live comfortably in this space.

Grace+ is a in namesake a parody of Google+, it is concerned with social networking and social spaces in the broadest sense. It seeks to look at these emerging phenomenons with playful intrigue, without passing an affirmative or negative judgement. Indeed, the aim of this work is essentially creative documentation: I seek to detect and record the changes in the increasingly mutable ideas of the social and the self as they have been implied by the technological unconscious.

This work is the culmination of two years research towards a Masters of Fine Art at UNSW COFA


Essay 1


Lacan famously proclaimed the logical priority of the signifier over the signified, heralding the ultimate dominion of the symbolic over the imaginary in the delineation of the subject. Yet, despite this strongly (post)structuralist vein in his oeuvre, for Lacan the decisive act that deploys subjectivity is not found in the linguistic operations that define the “discursive subject” of much postmodern discourse, but rather the act of the infant encountering its own reflection, which “situates the agency of the ego, before it’s social determination.” (1) Lacan thus locates the subject in terms of a fundamental phenomenon wherein the reflexive experience of consciousness, that is, the self-conscious awareness of the self as “i”, is revealed in the critical collision of the imaginary, the symbolic and the real, materialised in the “play” between self, image, and body.


Our subjectivity has always been developed within the confines of an embodied state, a state that, due to its embodied-ness, preferences the power of the gaze and the duplicative image (the mirror) in its expressions of meaning, and the subsequent arrival of identity. In this sense, first the painting, and then photography and the filmic image have been the documentors and teachers of subjective experience; the images that, like the mirror, captivate our gaze and give birth to our Imago (2). With recent developments in web-based activities and the rise of social networking sites, this emphasis has shifted to they “dynamic screen” (3) of the computer as the new locale of identity creating phenomena. However, the dynamic screen expresses itself in a language of simulative, virtual  networks, operations and processes, rather than the duplicative, representation images we have hitherto encountered. Suddenly we are no longer in the realm of signifiers and signified, whereby something is always “standing in” or “pointing to” something “Real”. As Manovich states, with web phenomena we are inside a medium that “erases” its own status as a mediating technology: the screen itself disappears, and we are left with a medium that points to nothing but itself, it does not stand in or represent, it just is. As such, the question arises: How are we to critically explore and document these new spaces of self-creation?


As densely networked, highly malleable, and ultimately virtual spaces, social networking sites elude traditional means of exploration. Grace Kingston’s artistic practice seeks to address this void, materialising our virtual spaces in an embodied and figurative state in order to make “real” the self that exists only in signified space. In a strangely apt paradox, by materialising our online lives Kingston’s installations emphasise the very absence of the bodily in in the virtual spaces we now occupy. A network of ropes cage and bind bodies that re absences more then presences, connected with a taxonomy of objects that seem so inseparable from the bodily shape that they distend and distort it until it is no longer the familiar human-centric form. Truly “a lack to fill a shape” (4) such sculptures make real a new process of signification, and consequently a new kind of subjectivity that is arising in contemporary culture. Rather than absence and presence determining the shape of a subject, it is the patterns of connectivity that delineate the space in which “I am” (5)

–  Natasha Wolf


(1) Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (London: Tavistock, 1980). 2

(2) Lev Manovich, ‘A Screen’s Geneology’ in The Language of New Media, (Massachusetts, MIT PRess, 2001). 95-103

(3) Ibid.

(4) My own rewording of Faulkner’s famous reflection on the nature of language, “a shape to fill a lack”. see: William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying, (London: Random House, 2004)

(5) N. Katherine Hayles, ‘Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers’ in How We Became Posthuman, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1999), 25-50


Essay 2


Grace+ addresses the performative collage of the self that exists in online social networking. The performing of forming and the form(s) of performing! The idea that in representation which is not real time there is space for preparation, editing and misrepresentation. People change the way they represent themselves accordingly ‘performing the self we would (currently) like to be.'(1)


“The mimesis of self, and the power inherent in mimesis to mis-represent. Once the mimetic has sprung into being, a terrifically ambiguous power is established; there is born the power to repre­sent the world, yet that same power is a power to falsify, mask and pose. The two powers are inseparable.” (2)


Self-expression through technology can be compartmentalised for the purpose of exploitation for commercial means. A ‘like’ on Facebook expresses a personal preference and those preferences also function as peer targeted advertisement for brands or commercial entities “we are much more comfortable with small burst of information that w0rk together to infer a whole’ (3)


Just as the reflection in Marylin Monroe’s compact the last time she checked before she killed herself was generated in the ‘male gaze’ (4) we have recently intensified the formation of our identi­ties (corporeal and metaphysical) in a dialectic with technology and corporation. As Kingston asserts, “addressing physical and online modified representations of self separately is no longer possible in the digital age.” (5) We are Voluntarily soaked in the ‘Google gaze’. Therefore the signifi­cance of online interactions is now parallel to those that take place in ‘the real world’


There is a need to highlight these interactions and their underlying nature for the generation that takes them for-granted. The final output of Grace+ materializes as a ‘non-hierarchical density of experence’ (6) like a Montessori classroom for the children of time of the technologically mediated self. Grace’s work seeks to challenge ‘western epistemology’ (7) and to highlight the dialectical formation of the self present in modem SNS media, through a process of self discovery for viewers/participants of the work.


In a time when’Technology proposes itself as the architect of our intimacies’ (8) and has become i an essential tool for some of the most intimate human interactions, and the connectivity it presents, offers new forms of community and social change. Which is why there is a need for examination of our interactions with it and its frameworks. In a time when this infrastructure is only now beginning to show it’s full potential.


Grace’s work is a development in the taxonomy of the self and its representation and formation. When Identity is more heterogeneous than ever before and there are more agencies acting on its formation. Grace has examined these forces and their nature.


– Stephen Dobson 


(1) Grace Kingston, Grace+ Identifying and Exploring the Nature of Online Identities as Expressed through the Platform of Social Networking: Master of Fine Arts Honours Thesis, as yet unpublished (Sydney: University 0f New South Wales, 2012), 11.

(2) Michael Tausig, Mimesis and alterity : a particular history of the senses, (Routledge: New York, USA, 1993), 32-43.

(3)Grace Kingston, Grace+ Identifying and Exploring the Nature of Online Identities as Expressed through the Platform of Social Networking: Master of Fine Arts Honours Thesis, as yet unpublished (Sydney: University 0f New South Wales, 2012), 33.

(4) Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Originally published in ‘Screen’ Vol. 16, Issue #3 Autumn: (Oxford University Press, Oxford, England. 1975), 4.

(5) Grace Kingston, Grace+ Identifying and Exploring the Nature of Online Identities as Expressed through the Platform of Social Networking: Master of Fine Arts Honours Thesis, as yet unpublished (Sydney: University 0f New South Wales, 2012), 26.

(6) Hannah Higgins, 2002. ‘The Fluxus Experience, (University of California Press: Ewing , NJ, USA), 12


(8)Sherry Turkle. 2011 Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology; and Less from Each Other’, Basic Books: New York, USA)