Friday, December 11, 2009

Identity and its Relation with Technology

With the rapid advance of technology over the past thirty years, American culture has adapted to accommodate the new methods of recording and expressing our identities. Through the use of video and computers, people have developed a wide variety of new techniques to express themselves. In the past decade, the Internet has seen a new phenomenon known as Web 2.0, a movement in web design that allows user an unparalleled ease in expressing themselves on the Internet. However, this expression comes at a risk. As human identity is stripped down to nothing more that a few lines of text or a handful of photographs, new venues of interpretation are being opened that result in the remixing and manipulation of one identity into something completely new and different.

Human identity being manipulated by technology is not a recent occurrence. In 1982, artist David Rockeby created the first piece featured in this exhibit, “Very Nervous System”. It was chosen as the introductory piece as it sets the tone for the works that follow it, both chronologically and in this exhibit. Rockeby’s piece uses cameras and computer software to turn the human body into an instrument, capable of creating music simply by moving across the space. “Very Nervous System” changes the way people act as they perform irregular motions to see what sounds they can produce as they are changed from a human body into a musical tool. Following that is the next piece in the exhibit, Daniel Rozin’s “Wooden Mirror”. Similar to “Very Nervous System”, Rozin utilizes cameras and computer to create a new method of viewing ourselves. “Wooden Mirror” is just that, a wooden mirror comprised of hundreds of wooden tiles that rotate to act as a mirror. The “Wooden Mirror” provides the viewer with a new way to see themselves as they cautiously try to figure out how the piece works and takes in their image being reflected back to them through this elaborate set up.

In the next piece, Kate Armstong and Michael Tippett use their project “Grafik Dynamo” to remix new identities out those created and displayed on the Internet. “Grafik Dynamo” takes text updates from the Livejournal service and combines them with photographs from the photo-sharing network Flickr to create a randomly generated three-panel comic. In a similar style, Tyler Sticka’s “Portwiture” uses Twitter and Flickr to create a mosaic of photographs based on the most commonly used words by that user. Both pieces add a new identity to the simple text updates, creating something entirely different then what the original author may have intended. Next is Amy Hoy’s and Thomas Fuchs’ “Twistori”, a piece that dynamically sorts twitter feeds based on key words and creates virtual “hive mind”, showing the user that they are not necessarily alone in their virtual thoughts and creating a social identity based on their pre-selected criteria.

Following those pieces are the works of Stacey Williams-Ng and Sophia Blackall, “Status Update Paintings” and “Missed Connections” respectively. Both pieces take the text from services Facebook and Craigslist and the artists then create a painting based on those criteria. “Status Update Paintings” gives a more interpretive view on the update while “Missed Connections” tries to recreate that moment in time, with an almost dreamlike quality in the painting.
The next piece shown is Robin Hewlett’s and Ben Kinsley’s “Street With a View” that uses Google Street View to capture and document a neighborhood’s identity, complete with mad scientist and parade. At the end of the exhibit is the most unusual piece of the collection, James Luna’s “The Artifact Piece”. Lacking in any technological element, it may seem out of place, but the themes of cultural identity it brings up can applied to all the works shown here. In “The Artifact Piece”, Luna is making commentary on how the scientific method documents still living cultures as dead or extinct., stripped down to what is left to study. With the rise of Web 2.0, this society is the most well documented in history and we must be careful to avoid seeing the people it contains as relics like in “The Artifact Piece”, but rather realize that identities are constantly being created and re-imagined everyday, far from static and dead things.

-Curator Daniel Wood

Thursday, December 10, 2009

James Luna - The Artifact Piece

In The Artifact Piece, artist James Luna creates both an installation and live action performance using his own body an exhibit. When the user walks into the exhibit, they find Luna laying down under glass, as part of an exhibit on Native Americans. Quickly they realize that Luna is actually alive and not just museum piece. Luna uses this piece to criticize the depiction of Native Americans as extinct and that they are still a living entity and people, complete with their own identity.

At first glance, this piece may not appear to fit with the others shown in this curation, due to the fact that there is no technological aspect involved, which is an element in each of the other pieces. However, The Artifact Piece is included to show the effects of documenting and study on still living cultures and their identity. Even today, the other pieces in this exhibit are being used to document and study the subcultures of the internet and analyze the virtual identities we have created for ourselves. James Luna’s The Artifact Piece is included as a warning to what happens to identity when it is stripped and away and rewritten by an analytical method.

Year(s) Created: 1987

Installation/Performance Art

Artist Statement

The Artifact Piece, 1987, was a performance/installation that questioned American Indian presentation in museums-presentation that furthered stereotype, denied contemporary society and one that did not enable an Indian viewpoint. The exhibit, through 'contemporary artifacts' of a Luiseño man, showed the similarities and differences in the cultures we live, and putting myself on view brought new meaning to 'artifact.'

Exhibition History

Not found

Image Sources

James Luna in his performance The Artifact Piece. 1987. Photograph. Emory English. Web. 11 Dec. 2009.


Fletcher, Kenneth R. "James Luna." Smithsonian Institution, Apr. 2008. Web. 11 Dec. 2009.

"James Luna: Artifact Piece." Emory English. Web. 11 Dec. 2009.

"James Luna." Charlotte Townsend-Gault. The Canadian Art Database, 1992. Web. 11 Dec. 2009.

Robertson, Jean, and Craig McDaniel. Themes of Contemporary Art: Visual Art After 1980. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.

Robin Hewlett and Ben Kinsely - Street With a View

View Larger Map

Street With a View, created by Robin Hewlett and Ben Kinsley, is an innovative and creative use of the Google Street View service to create and capture a moment in time for the entire internet to see. The artists contacted the Google Street View service and asked for them to come out and document an alley in Pittsburgh. They then staged a series of events along the short alleyway, ranging from the mundane (people moving into a new house) to the absurd (a mad scientist testing a laser in his garage). All these actions were documented by Google Street View and can be viewed on Google Maps (see the embedded map above).

In this piece, the artists deal more with cultural identity then with the individual. What they’ve done is taken a neighborhood and given it a brand new narrative and life. With Google Maps quickly becoming a main stay in day-to-day life, the actions recorded on each of the streets act as a snapshot to life on that street. In Street With a View, the artists take this notion and apply a twist to it, inserting fiction into the neighborhood and enshrining this scene for as long as Google Maps continues to operate. In addition, the use of Google Maps gives the users an unparalleled ability to explore this moment in time, something that can't even be done for the people who were there.

Year(s) Created: 2008

Media: Website, Google Maps Street View

Artist Statement

In May 2008, artists Robin Hewlett and Ben Kinsley teamed up with Google Inc. to create the first ever integration of art into Google’s Street View mapping platform. Partnering with the Mattress Factory, a museum of contemporary art on Pittsburgh’s Northside, Hewlett and Kinsley invited local residents to help stage a series of scenes along Sampsonia Way. Over 100 neighbors, and other participants from around the city, gathered to create a parade, a marathon, a seventeenth
century sword fight, a heroic rescue and much more. Street View technicians documented
the street with the scenes in action and the project went live last week. Street with a View can be seen on-line by typing “Sampsonia Way + Pittsburgh” into Google Maps and selecting the Street View function. Information about the project can also be found on the artists’ website:

Integrating fiction, community story-telling and performance art into the Street View platform of instant-access, 360 degree imaging, Street With A View explodes the barrier between reality and performance, life and art. The artists joined together with the local community to take back the power of representation—defining themselves and their environments and using technology as a tool of self-expression. For one day a small, one-way alley became an elaborate montage of spontaneous performance and provocative visual art. Local observers inspired by the scenes were invited to join in with their own improvised performances, and in the process, reach out to the world.
Captured by Google, Inc. technicians, and integrated into the Google Street View map, the event can now be seen by viewers everywhere. The once-tranquil Sampsonia Way has been transformed by a monumental sculpture of a de-feathered chicken looming behind a fence while a medieval battle of swords and armor plays out down the street. Nearby, a faux- marathon of local runners sprints past a mad scientist’s laboratory. A marching band, a pair of firefighters and a new home-owner enact stories individually plausible. Lined up one after the other, however, these scenes begin to test the limits of our suspension of disbelieve. Life blurs into theater and back again.
Kinsley and Hewlett occupy an exciting realm of artistic experimentation that reaches beyond traditional art venues to meet new audiences in the real world.

“For neighbors who experienced it first hand, it was a block party, a community gathering, and a performance. They were both audience and actors,” says Hewlett. “For those viewing the project in Google Street View, there is a different level of interaction. You can navigate the street and discover the more subtle scenes as well as the spectacular ones. Turning onto another street, you might wonder if the person walking their dog was also staged? We’re interested in the necessity of sorting it out for yourself and, ultimately, the inability to do so... you’ll just never know for sure what is real and what isn’t!”

Both Hewlett and Kinsley are alumni of the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University, where an interdisciplinary approach to art practice is strongly encouraged. The artists received support from the Carnegie Mellon School of Art, as well as the Carnegie Mellon College of Fine Arts Dean's Office.

Exhibition History

"Street With a View" has been available online since November 2008 at the following site.

It can also be viewed online through the Google Maps Street View application at the following location.

Image Sources

Marching Band. 2008. Photograph. Street With a View. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Mad Scientist Laboratory (Love Laser). 2008. Photograph. Street With a View. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Fireman Way. 2008. Photograph. Street With a View. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Mattress Factory Fire Escape. 2008. Photograph. Street With a View. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.


Hewlett, Robin, and Ben Kinsley. "Street With a View." Street With a View. Nov. 2008. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Moss, Ceci. "Street With a View." 7 Nov. 2008. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Vaidhyanathan, Siva. "Street With a View: A Fabulous and Creative Use of Google Street View." The Googlization of Everything. 22 May 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Sophia Blackall - Missed Connections

Sophie Blackall’s “Missed Connections” takes the wishful yearnings of anonymous posters and turns them into acute representations of their desires. To create these paintings, Blackall uses the website Craigslist and it’s Missed Connections section, a section of the website where people post about missing a chance to meet or talk to a stranger in hopes of reconnecting with them.

Much like Stacey Williams-Ng’s “Status Update Paintings”, Blackall is putting these lamentations into a new context. Through her unique art style, Blackall takes what could be considered sad and woeful texts and adds some humor and color to them. Her style also conveys a sense of whimsy, like you’re looking back at that moment in a dream.

Year(s) Created: 2009 and ongoing

Media: Watercolors

Artist Statement

Messages in bottles, smoke signals, letters written in the sand; the modern equivalents are the funny, sad, beautiful, hopeful, hopeless, poetic posts on Missed Connections websites. Every day hundreds of strangers reach out to other strangers on the strength of a glance, a smile or a blue hat. Their messages have the lifespan of a butterfly. I'm trying to pin a few of them down.

Exhibition History

"Missed Connections" has been available online since 2009 and continues to add new pieces at the following website.

Image Sources

Blackall, Sophie. Doing Laundry in Our Building. 2009. Missed Connections NY. 16 Nov. 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Blackall, Sophie. HOT Toll Collector. 2009. Missed Connections NY. 11 Oct. 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Blackall, Sophie. If Not For Your Noisy Tambourine. 2009. Missed Connections NY. 4 Apr. 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.


"Art of Craigslist Missed Connections." 17 Nov. 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Blackall, Sophie. "Missed Connections NY." Missed Connections NY. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Katz, Leslie. "Artist Finds Muse in Other's Missed Connections." CNET News. CNET, 1 Oct. 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Wortham, Jenna. "Craiglist's Missed Connections As Art." Bits. New York Times, 29 Sept. 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Stacey Williams-Ng - Status Update Paintings

Facebook is known for its large collection of user updates and picture galleries, but artist Stacey Williams-Ng has added another dimension to this collection of media with her series of “Status Update Paintings”. Williams-Ng takes random status updates she finds on Facebook and then creates an oil painting based on how she interprets the message.

The fascinating aspect of her work comes from the interpretation and new context she puts the text in. In the piece “Molly E. is Hot for Robert Frost”, we see a girl looking longingly out the window while she reads, presumably, Robert Frost. The text has been turned for slightly risqué to one of longing. Williams-Ng’s work gives a deeper identity to these updates, asking us to look beyond the text and imagine the person on the other side.

Year(s) Created:

Media: Oil Painting, Canavs

Artist Statement

Stacey Williams-Ng has been actively drawing and painting since her early youth. A native of Memphis, Tenn., she pursued part of her fine arts studies in France, at the Université de Haute Bretagne (Rennes II). In 1995, she obtained her BFA in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis with a specialty in Graphic Design. After graduation, she and her husband moved to Singapore, where Stacey became a multimedia design instructor at the LaSalle College of Fine Arts. After several years, the young family moved to Chicago, where she launched an active career in graphic design. She is considered a specialist in interactive branding, and has been in senior design and creative directing roles for web-based media since 1996.

Her fifteen years of graphic design deeply influence the formal qualities of her paintings, as strongly as her travel and life experiences mark her subject matter.

Williams-Ng (pronounced “Ung”) is currently pursuing a new series in which the paintings are a response to the significance of social media, and in particular, to status updates. Status updates are a mainstay of social applications like Twitter and Facebook. Users are invited to regularly publish their answers to the question “What are you doing right now?”

Responses (or status updates), which are confined to a character limit, then show up on the pages of the member’s friends. The result is a sort of collaborative poem, in which everyone’s posts are visible, and equal to one another in emphasis.

In these heavily textured oil paintings, figures are seen performing mundane tasks, such as cooking pancakes or reading (“Molly E. is hot for Robert Frost,” pictured at left) while other more quixotic pieces contain no explicit narrative other that the status update that inspired it, such as the peculiar “Rafiq A. Spring…the end of my winter of discontent or just the next pithy chapter?”

Stacey’s artwork has been featured in Emerge magazine, Milwaukee Home & Fine Living Magazine, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and, and she has been the recipient of several awards and honors.

Exhibition History

Underwood Gallery, Milwaukee Wisconsin

"Status Update Paintings" have been available online since 2009 at the following website.

Image Sources

Williams-Ng, Stacey. Eve Y. Wants Pie. Stacey Williams-Ng. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Williams-Ng, Stacey. Molly E. is Hot For Robert Frost. Stacey Williams-Ng. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Williams-Ng, Stacey. Tony R. Could Have Died a Superhero, But Instead He Lived to Be the Villain. Stacey Williams-Ng. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.


Cashmore, Pete. "Facebook Status Updates Become Works of Art." 26 Apr. 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Schumacher, Mary L. "Artist Turns Facebook Updates into Oil Paintings." JS Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, 25 Apr. 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Williams-Ng, Stacey. "Stacey Williams-Ng Background." Stacey Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Amy Hoy and Thomas Fuchs - Twistori

Twistori, created by Amy Hoy and Thomas Fuchs, cleverly uses the Twitter social networking website to tap into and display the thoughts of the thousands of users at once. Based on the work of Sep Kamvar and Jonathan Harris of “We Feel Fine”, Twistori seeks to reveal the unconscious patterns of internet thought. Twistori searches Twitter feeds for the words love, think, believe, feel and wish and displays the tweets containing those words in the appropriate list.

Although the voices being shown are anonymous, they feel connected simply by being sorted by five simple words. A sense of community and identity is created as the feeds scroll up the page, almost developing thought pattern for the internet, even though it is just an aggregation of messages.

Year(s) Created: 2008

Media: Website

Artist Statement

twistori, our first excursion into Twitter visualizations, serving up 4 mil page views a month (described as "gentle and intelligent" by NYT Magazine)

Exhibition History

Twistori has been available online since 2008 at the following website.

Image Sources

Photograph. Ajaxian. 29 Apr. 2008. Web. 9 Dec. 2009.

Beale, Scott. Twistori. 2008. Photograph. Laughing Squid. 28 Apr. 2009. Web. 9 Dec. 2009.

Catone, Josh. 2008. Photograph. Read Write Web. 29 Apr. 2008. Web. 9 Dec. 2009.


Hoy, Amy, and Thomas Fuchs. "Hi, there." Slash7. Web. 9 Dec. 2009.

Hoy, Amy. "How We Tap into The Twitter Zeitgeist for SXSW, Internet Week and More." Slash7. 4 June 2009. Web. 9 Dec. 2009.

Almaer, Dion. "Twistori: Telling a story with Twitter and" Ajaxian. 29 Apr. 2008. Web. 9 Dec. 2009.

Catone, Josh. "Twistori: A Twitter Zeritgeist Social Experiment." Read Write Web. 29 Apr. 2008. Web. 9 Dec. 2009.

Tyler Sticka - Portwiture

When he combined two popular networking sites, Twitter and Flckr, Tyler Sticka created a new way to view ourselves on the internet with his piece, Portwiture. The piece takes the inputted Twitter user name, doesn’t need to be your own, and analyzes that feed for the most commonly used words in the Twitter feed. It then searches the photo sharing network Flickr and displays a collage of images that match with those terms.

With Portwiture, a new dimension is added to the digital idenity that we create for ourselves with Twitter. Suddenly, each word has deeper meaning as its usage may come to represent us and the images displayed through this project. Not only does it give us an interesting visual image to go with our thoughts, but it shows us what we think and speak about it a clear display.

Year(s) Created: 2009

Media: Website, text and photograph integration

Artist Statement

Portwiture combs a Twitter user’s recent updates for frequently used words, then finds Flickr photos that resonate with them. The result is a serendipitous visual representation of your profile: your Twitter status, in photos.
Although I praised the potential of public APIs in several of my speaking engagements, it struck me as strange that I had yet to utilize the technology myself. Portwiture is the first result of my ongoing exploration of connecting disparate wells of public information.

In order to minimize server impact as well as increase the amount of immediate user feedback, the application’s activity occurs largely on the client side with jQuery. A combination of RSS and the versatile SlideShowPro Flash component power a “slideshow” method of viewing results. Visitors with CSS3-compatible browsers will enjoy rounded corners, text shadows and the Museo typeface. The service taps Twitter’s potential as a means of promotion and discovery with the implementation of “Tweet This” buttons on profiles and photography.

Portwiture was Mashup Awards’ “Mashup of the Day” for February 25, 2009 and a nominee for “Best Mashup” in the 2009 WebVisionary Awards. It was one of six “Incredible Twitter Powered Art Projects” featured on the popular social media blog Mashable. It was also featured in SlideShowPro’s email newsletter.

Exhibition History

"Portwiture" has been available online since 2009 at the following website.

Image Sources

Photograph. App Scout. PC Mag Digital Network, 21 May 2009. Web. 9 Dec. 2009.

Portwiture: Twitter and Flicker Mashup. Photograph. Silicon Florist. 14 July 2009. Web. 9 Dec. 2009.


Sticka, Tyler. "Portwiture." Web. 9 Dec. 2009.

Henry, Alan. "Portwiture Puts Your Tweets In Pictures." App Scout. 21 May 2009. Web. 9 Dec. 2009.

Turoczy, Rick. "Portwiture: What does your Twitter stream look like?" Silicon Florist. 14 July 2009. Web. 9 Dec. 2009.