Can a Buzzfeed-style quiz capture your online sexual persona? Would you want your results to be public? Queer Australian new media artist Xanthe Dobbie dares us to take an online quiz and ponder these questions in new work for UQ Art Museum’s Conflict in My Outlook exhibition.

Elizabeth Harris  |  Ed Cristina Brooks   | 8 October 2020

About the artist

Born in 1992, Xanthe Dobbie is a new media artist, filmmaker and curator who lives and works in Sydney, Australia. Xanthe draws on art history, meme culture, sexuality and feminist and queer discourses to create works both on- and offline, capturing snapshots of our internal lives in the post-internet era. 

Xante Dobbie, Portrait of Lauren Ostrowski Fenton (2016) © Courtesy of the artist.

Curated by Anna Briers, the University of Queensland Art Museum’s exhibition Conflict in my Outlook_We Met Online features newly commissioned digital works from Australian and international artists. The exhibition’s title is drawn from an error message in Microsoft Office provoked by scheduling clashes that many of us have become familiar with during the Covid-19 pandemic. The show’s title evokes glitches, failure to communicate and the possibility that technology might inhibit connection, rather than facilitate it. 

Xante Dobbie, Wallpaper Queens, 2018/2020, digital collage and online quiz, dimensions variable. © Courtesy of the artist.

The show was planned for the gallery prior to lockdown, but ultimately moved online. In the words of Briers, it is an ‘exhibition of, and about, the Internet’’ divided into four themes: Utopia to Dystopia – Failed Metaphors and Invisible Power Structures, Digital Intimacies – The Public Private; Disinformation Architects – Fake News and the Weaponisation of Social Media, and All Data to the People – Surveillance in the Age of the Big Other.

Leading the charge for the show’s Digital Intimacies theme is Sydney-based new media artist Xanthe Dobbie, whose work Wallpaper Queens asks what the implications are of defining ourselves through the internet, which often involves adopting an archetypal persona defined by a digital ‘neo-tribe’ and whether this fuels or suffocates individuation in a society increasingly defined by online tribalism.

Xante Dobbie, Wallpaper Queens, 2018/2020, digital collage and online quiz, dimensions variable. © Courtesy of the artist.

Saturated, pulsating collages are the name of the game, and if you take Dobbie’s quiz, it will present you with the perfect desktop wallpaper to capture your essence. Are you a Giorgia, whose wallpaper features Michaelangelo’s David smirking next to bouncing breasts and the logo of intermittently popular Italian fashion label, Fiorucci? ‘Giorgia’ is described as having ‘Impeccable style, (a) sophisticated palette and a barely secret love for a broad variety of trash’. Or could you be a ‘Harriet’, an ‘Existential Meme Queen’, who is embodied by the Virgin Mary cradling the Nike Swoosh next to a deepfake, naked Jennifer Lawrence, and a frantically spinning bitcoin? On the fringes of this pulsating scene, the only still figure is Carolee Schneeman, focussed on drawing out and reading her interior scroll. 

Xante Dobbie, Wallpaper Queens, 2018/2020, digital collage and online quiz, dimensions variable. © Courtesy of the artist.

Dobbie’s wallpapers require knowledge of pop culture, especially the tropes of millennial adolescence, art history and high Catholic iconography, to be readable. Some of you who find yourselves drawn to Xanthe’s frequent use of crucifixes, the Madonna and white doves, be warned – chains, tongues, dildos and twerking are far more prominent. While having knowledge of all these topics may seem a tall order, the fact that we do is evidence of the information-saturated, frenetic and incongruous world we live in. For Dobbie and her audience, red figure pottery and Caravaggio’s Narcissus are perfectly at home among sexy nuns and dildos. 

Xante Dobbie, Wallpaper Queens, 2018/2020, digital collage and online quiz, dimensions variable. © Courtesy of the artist.

Xanthe evokes Baroque theatricality and the concept of the bel composto – the unification of the arts, blurring the borderline between painting, sculpture and architecture, to create unified spaces, epitomised by Bernini’s Conaro Chapel. Indeed, The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa wouldn’t be out of place in any of Dobbie’s wallpapers. By interweaving meme and trash culture, pornography and religious iconography, Dobbie shows how key hallmarks of identity such as faith, sexuality and mere taste can be manipulated, merged and performed on the internet, provoking an identity crisis. Buzzfeed quizzes, Subreddits and dating apps such as Tinder taunt us with the idea of a defined group or individual persona, but fail to reconcile our intimate desires and beliefs with our public-facing online personas. 

Whether you love or loathe your results on the Wallpaper Queens quiz, Dobbie and the other contributors to Conflict in My Outlook succeed in interrogating how we, individually and as a society, present ourselves in this heavily networked world. As Dobbie describes those dubbed a ‘Leo’ by her quiz, ‘(e)very day is a performance when you have an audience’ – lucky or unlucky as it may be, every day on the internet is a day with an audience. So, go on, take the quiz – find out who you really are.

Elagabalus (2019) by Xanthe Dobbie © Courtesy of the artist.

More about the artists

In 2013, they graduated from RMIT in Melbourne with a Bachelor of Fine Art. They also hold a Master of Arts, Screen, Film Editing from the Australian Film Television and Radio School. Since 2013 they have been a board member at Blindside ARI, a contemporary arts space located in the Melbourne CBD.  

Key Achievements

© Courtesy of the artist.
  • 2019  Melbourne Fringe Festival, Winner of Best Experimental Show for Harriet Gillies ‘The Power of The Holy Spirit’
  • 2018  Midsumma Australia Post Art Prize, Winner of People’s Choice, No Vacancy, Q.V. Melbourne
  • 2016  John Fries Award, Finalist, UNSW Galleries at UNSW Art & Design
  • 2014  Macquarie Digital Portraiture Award, Finalist, National Portrait Gallery, ACT

Past Shows and Fair booths

Solo Shows

2020  PLEASUREDOME, or, A vision in a Dream. A Fragment. performed online for interactive livestream, created with Harriet Gillies in collaboration with Marcus Whale and Solomon Thomas, Griffin Theatre Company, Sydney

2017  Desktop Holiday, The Ferry Gallery, Bangkok, Thailand

2016  One Million Views, collaboration with Tiyan Baker, Next Wave Festival, North Melbourne

2015  Xanthe Dobbie for Grey Gardens, Grey Gardens, Fitzroy

Group Shows

2020  Conflict in My Outlook_We Met Online, Curated by Anna Briers, UQ Art Museum, Brisbane (Online)

2020  For Your Pleasure, Curated by ellen.gif & mck3nz, TikTok Exhibition (Online)

2020  Desktop Holiday, Curated by Claire Anna Watson, NETS Victoria Touring Program, Mornington Peninsula Gallery (VIC) (Online)

2020  Double Adapter, Curated by Louise Meuwissen, MARS Gallery, NGV Melbourne Design Week, Melbourne

2019  Potential Space, Curated by Kathleen Linn and Sarah Hibbs, Kennards Self Storage Ultimo, Sydney

2019  Finding Cntrl, ‘Living Coral’, online interactive publication for Nesta, London, UK

2019  Widgets and Doohickies from a Camp toolbox, Curated by Dr Alison Bennet & Dr Ray Cook, RMIT Project Space, Melbourne

2019  ARTBAR February 2019, Curated by Lara Merrett, Contribution to Claire Field’s FavourEconomy, MCA, Sydney

2019  Black Box Experiment, Performance experiment with, Testing Grounds, Melbourne

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