INTERVIEW: EXPLORING AUTHENTICITY IN A DIGITAL WORLD

If You Can Learn To Fake Authenticity You’ve Got It Made is a live performance by Rebecca Meston being held in the shop-front window of FELTspace Gallery on Friday, 25 May and 1 June.

If You Can Learn To Fake Authenticity explores what life is really like behind the smiling face of your online persona. The show asks its audience, on the other side of the glass, what does authentic even look like in this brave new world, and if it was given to you, could you handle it?

We talked to the writer of the show, Rebecca Meston ahead of the first free performance at FELTspace Gallery on Friday, May 25.

Upside: Is there a particular event from your online social media or in the news that you really connected with that inspired you to start writing Fake Authenticity?

Rebecca: Not a particular event as such, but a particular Instagram celebrity. Every single post reflected a life of utter perfection, yet the photos and captions were crafted in such a way that the reader, quickly scrolling by, could easily believe that she just woke up like that. And her appeal is largely about “authenticity”. In amongst all this celebrity and style and beauty products and people who are secretly asking you to buy buy buy, the brand of this particular Instagrammer comes across as nothing of the sort. She is so REAL. And natural. And Hashtag Blessed. Hashtag No filter. But I started to wonder about the detailed creation of her world. And the worlds created through these platforms in general. I’m interested in the one hour before Kate Middleton’s photo was taken on the front steps of the hospital, before royal baby number 3 was revealed. What was the process in order to get to this supposed authentic moment, and final hurrah to the audience? And what was just outside the frame? Because PS, in the hours after I pushed out a baby, I didn’t look much like she did.

Upside: Do you think we are on a downward spiral with social media? Has it just been the ‘millennial’ generation or do you think Fake Authenticity is affecting Gen Y and the next coming generation?

Rebecca: A part of me hopes that by the time my little boy is 14, all the kids will be writing letters and sharing their record collections. But to be honest, technology and social platforms can bring really exciting advancements. And also, If you can learn to fake authenticity is less about judging the impacts of social media, and being in any way didactic and preachy, and more about going on a theatrical journey into its underground spaces.

5. Authenticity - Credit Michael Meston.png

Photo Credit: Michael Meston

Upside: What inspired you to do this performance in a shop front window and for such a long time as well? It’s an obscure setting but really stands out. 

Rebecca: For this show, I was interested in making work that goes to audiences, rather than audiences going to it. So while I’m obviously promoting this piece, I’m keen on it being performed for passers-by going about their business to get veggies from the market or going to dinner, and they happen to stumble upon this brought-to-life window. Which is actually the front window of the incredible artist-run initiative FELTspace gallery, which has just celebrated its 10th birthday. Plus I wanted to make a show that was free and really accessible, and by using the form of silent theatre in a window, find out what’s left, when you remove spoken language in this performance of truth. And in so doing, explore in a really heightened sense, our versions of public and private and real and avatar, in this warp-speed digital age.

Upside: What do you want to see from people and politicians on social media and in the media in general? Do you think politicians could benefit from being a little more real and down to earth instead of being polished to perfection without showing as much personality? 

Rebecca: Again this show, and the process of making it, is not really about judging what is happening, and who is doing it. It’s more about prizing open the subject matter and going on an archaeological dig. These are harrowing and dark times, back-dropped by artwork such as ‘This is America’ by Childish Gambino and its accompanying film clip. Yet our Instagram and Twitter et al feeds promote a very different world. The chasm between what’s happening politically and what’s happening personally for a lot of us, versus what we light up on screen showing our shiny happy lives, is oceanic. So we – my brilliant collaborators Meg Wilson, Natalia Sledz and Hew Parham –  are putting on our head torches and are going in deep.

Upside: What do you want people to take away from your performance once it’s all over?

I want to reveal the beauty in the true authentic. The authentic behind the performed rendition of authentic. The beauty in the dag released. I want to make audiences feel OK to not be OK. Reassured that they’re not alone. And that we’re all in this together.

If You Can Learn To Fake Authenticity You’ve Got It Made, runs from Friday, 25 May and Friday, 1 June 7 – 10pm

Tickets: FREE

FELTspace Gallery 12 Compton St, Adelaide

For more information visit: www.feltspace.org/exhibitions-upcoming/

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