Artist Sabella D’Souza on the privilege of passing - Still from '22/f/aus' by  - Sabella D'Souza
Still from '22/f/aus' by Sabella D'Souza

Artist Sabella D’Souza on the privilege of passing

“Indian-Australian? Never felt that, never heard of that, never tasted that, never smelt that.*”

These are the opening words of Sabella D’Souza’s work titled 22/f/aus. As a performance artists based in Sydney she interweaves notions of cultural hybridity, virtual identity and the transnationality of cyberspace with identity signifiers such as race and gender. A central focus in her work is unpacking the importance of safe spaces on and offline for people of colour and queer people.

“WikiHow*: to perform whiteness

The privilege of passing is undeniable”

22/f/aus plays in the discursive make up of the internet and the kind of interactions and social “passing” that it has engendered. The work is presented in a similar fashion to YouTube makeup tutorial and a wiki-how guide to survive the erasure of racial, and queer identity in virtual communities, specifically for women and non-binary people of colour. By utilizing the conventions of a YouTube or wiki-how tutorial the viewer is initially overcome with a sense of familiarity, having scrolled through a number of these online before. However, the subtitles that display across the bottom of the screen push you into a different frame of reference. The work is powerful in its ability to use the language of the internet video to paint a picture of what it means to occupy a space that is considered “white by default”. With her step-by-step instructions merged together with her own experiences on online interactive platforms, D’Souza exposes casual exoticization and how certain online spaces make one feel as if they need to “pass” as another identity to enjoy a safe online experience.

Check out the video below.

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