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