My Mother's Maiden Name

Curated by Tanya Gayer
Apr 8, 2019

Root Division invites artists working in all media to submit work for My Mother's Maiden Name to be presented at Root Division in June 2019.

What is your mother’s maiden name? Who was your first kiss?

Banks, credit card companies, and social media sites utilize password security questions when users sign up for an account online. If the user forgets their login information in the future, they can retrieve access to their account by answering these security questions correctly. In most cases, the questions ask users to recall specific memories of their life and reinvent them as an extra form of protection. If one cannot remember their password, surely they can be asked to remember their first kiss in order to regain access to their account.

But what are the implications of this protocol? What if a user must recall an invasive or predatory experience for their first kiss? The security questions utilized by corporations realize a subtle system that hinges on potentially harmful emotional triggers and notions of inadequacy. Within this system, corporations attempt to standardize beliefs, knowledge, and values that dictate when and where personal history is trusted to formulate identity and security.

Curated by Tanya Gayer, My Mother’s Maiden Name analyzes this governance of individual history seen in security questions and implements this question and answer protocol as a precedent to discuss online authorship, culture-construction, and systems of knowledge. The selected artists will take a considered approach to the fragility of memory and identity amongst digital data noise to account for information that cannot be quantified through such constructs like security systems.

The artists will evaluate elements that are not concrete in text, visible data, or public, and instead entrench themselves in the emotions and values that come with answering a security question or using an Apple-patented gesture, for example. Albeit a coping mechanism or performance to satisfy interfaces with limited language and context, these actions tell important histories and beliefs that go beyond what is typed, selected in a drop down menu, or tracked via wifi. My Mother’s Maiden Name confronts this regulation of bodies to reveal requisite activism, awareness, and dialog to make changes to systems that shape identity and culture in facilities that are otherwise untraceable.

Applicants will complete an exhibition that currently features work by Terry Berlier, Kira Dominguez-Hutlgren, Kim Miskowicz, Margaret Nobel, Mimi Onuoha and Julien Prévieux.

Deadline for Submission: Monday, April 8, 2019 at 11:59 pm

Exhibition Dates: June 5 - June 29, 2019

Please submit a $10 submission fee below, and complete your application at this link.


1. Application Form:
To complete your submission, please fill out this online submission form.

2. Email to submissions@rootdivision... containing all of the below:

- Artist Statement
- Images: Artists may submit up to four jpeg images of completed works. Video links can be hyperlinked in the submission form. If you are proposing a new work, please send images of completed projects with your proposal.

3. $10 Submission Fee

E-payment can be made via this page at this link:
or by submitting a $10 check or money order made payable to Root Division, mailed to: Root Division, 1131 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94103.

Please note that the $10 fee must be on file by April 8th, 2019 at 11:59 pm for the email submission to be considered.

Artists will be notified about inclusion by April 22, 2019.

Call 415.863.7668 or email Samantha Reynolds, Art Programs Manager at with any questions.