“People tend to stop outside the gallery where Grace Kingston’s exhibition is on view and look in the window at the big, gaudy LED screen with its scrolling messages. “Howe did I end up here?” it says. Or “Chillin with my hommies”

Stepping inside the gallery, passers-by can see that the screen is simply reflecting their own reality right back at them.

Whether it’s “About to sleaze it up!” or “Getting the beers incider”, these are real comments accompanying Facebook check-ins made by Kingston’s friends at pubs and cafes within a one kilometre radius of Archive gallery in Eliza St, Newtown. It’s an uncomfortable reminder that many eyes can see what we post on social media, when and where we do it, and that our comments are there forever.

“A lot of people are worried about Big Brother watching them, but they volunteer the information,” Kingston says.

Facebook check-ins are made when a user goes to an establishment with a Facebook presence. The user’s mobile phone picks up the location they are in, allowing them to “check-in” to the establishment to show their Facebook friends that they are there.

For Kingston, who uses Facebook but not check0ins, it’s a form of self-advertisement

“It’s where you want to be seen,” she says. “It’s like, no one checks in to Newtown IGA, although everyone goes there.”

So where do they check in? With the help of a computer geek friends, the artist collated data from her Facebook friends’ check-ins and found the most popular locations. About 900 friends were involved.

The top 25 locations, including the top-ranking Court House Hotel, have informed another work in the exhibition – a cluster of suspended Facebook drop pins. Hand-made by Kingston, each little red drop pin carries the name of a hotel or cafe, and the higher it is hung the more Facebook check-ins it has reaped.

They include Dendy Newtown, the Bank Hotel and Bloodwood Restaurant.

The third work in Kingston’s show is a series of “selfies” taken by the artist in the most checked-into places at the most checked-into times. Grainy and under-exposed, they are printed on glass to mimic a mobile phone screen. For Kingston, who teaches painting and drawing at the College of Fine Arts in Paddington, the Facebook check-in is a fascinating social indicator.

“There are So many real-life ramifications” she says.”

–  Elizabeth Fortescue: Oct 16, 2013