Laurel Nakadate (American, b. 1975) creates work that examines contemporary modes of self-representation and identity formation. Exploring loneliness and relationships amongst strangers, her practice predates, yet foreshadows, the onslaught of social media platforms that pervade our everyday lives, including Instagram and Facebook, freelance marketplaces like fiverr and Upwork, and consumer genetic testing services such as 23andMe. Mother Line presents two series, Relations and The Kingdom, which result directly from the artist embracing such platforms.
After taking an at-home genetic test, Nakadate utilized subscription ancestry databases and social platforms to identify and connect with people who were reported to share her DNA within eight or nine generations. She connected with hundreds of distant relatives in the United States, and she asked to come and take their photograph in whatever manner they chose to present themselves. For each portrait in the Relations series, she met the person near their home, at night, using only a flashlight for illumination. In doing the research for Relations, only three of approximately 1,500 DNA connections appeared from her father’s side of the family. Nakadate’s father is Japanese American, and his family has only been in the United States for around 100 years. In result, what we see represented in this series of portraits is Nakadate’s matrilineal heritage—her matriline or “mother line”.