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My Mother’s Maiden Name

Root Division

Terry Berlier, Michelle Bonilla Garcia, Kira Dominguez-Hultgren, Joty Dhaliwal, Sarah Lee, Kim Miskowicz, Margaret Noble, Mimi Onuoha, Julien Prévieux, Deborah Stein, tamara suarez porras

Exhibition Gallery Guide PDF

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 as 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.

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 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 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.

Alma Mater: Methods

California College of the Arts Hubbell Street Galleries

CCA Alumni from the last 10 years


Photos by Nicholas Bruno


For the second iteration of the college’s biennial series of alumni exhibitions programming, CCA Exhibitions and the CCA Alumni Association will partner to highlight the idea of process within the practices of recent alumni from across the college’s four divisions: Fine Arts, Design, Architecture, and Humanities and Sciences. The exhibition will explore shared threads in artistic practices of sketching, note taking, modeling, mapping, drafting, and rendering. These process-based methods expose the pathways creative individuals depend upon to obtain a final product or idea. By celebrating this amorphousness through the form of an exhibition, Alma Mater: Methods will move beyond what is often exhibited within the white cube—finality, succinct expression, monetary value—and will instead prioritize a thinking-through-making approach that is shared among the college’s creative communities and disciplines. It is here where conversations begin, new connections form, and low stakes are valued. 

This exhibition is co-curated by Beth Abrahamson (MFA Design 2015), Sarah Hobstetter (MArch 2010), Mik Gaspay (MFA 2011), and Tanya Gayer (MA Curatorial Practice, Visual and Critical Studies 2016).