How can we reclaim the visual language of categorisation structures (i.e. Census statistics, autocorrect) towards more pluralistic thinking?

‘Phoniness’ is an emerging performative method for projecting private discomfort and queer ambivalence onto public institutions. The first installment of the project involves graphic, poetic, and choreographic experiments in disrupting binaries. Connecting the dots between the 2020 U.S. Census and automatic grammar checkers, ‘Phoniness’ seeks to reclaim symbols of ‘correctness’ to communicate another form of critique.  

Once every decade, a Census is delivered to every household in the United States to gather data for population and demographic statistics. This data is used for apportioning the seats in the House of Representatives and allocating funding to social services. In 2020, the United States Census Bureau will add the question “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” to the survey, which is estimated to deter 630,000 households from answering the survey and leave 6.5 million people uncounted. The 2020 Census will also continue to exclude any question about sexual orientation and gender identity, which will keep policymakers ill-informed about the income and housing status of the LGBTQ+ population.

This project imagines alternative ways of interacting with rigid systems, especially those that are designed to limit the expression of identity, dissent, or vulnerability. ‘Phoniness’ involves analysing the shapes that mark where and how information can be collected, such as grids, boxes, sliding scales, and wave patterns. Experimenting with these shapes in playful and critical ways becomes an invitation to go beyond the reappropriation of language, and rather reclaims the technologies themselves that shape language codification, identity expression, and knowledge production in the 21st century.