Projects // Media Portraits

The Media Portraits series are made up of images that have been mediated through a variety of electronic devices, including televisions, computers, still cameras, video cameras, and cell phones. By retaining the clear evidence of their travels from one electronic source to another, these images expose the extent to which we are creating a post-human identity in electronic media. In this way, they acknowledge the assertion of N. Katherine Hayles that “it is no longer possible to distinguish meaningfully between the biological organism and the information circuits in which it is enmeshed.”

The artwork greets this realization with a strong sense of ambiguity and paradox. On the one hand, the telltale color and texture of flickering lights on the screen demonstrate the extent to which we present ourselves as “surface,” and the fact that the images are many times removed from the original source conveys a sense of detachment, isolation and confusion. The portraits are fragmented and sometimes blend with broadcast imagery, indicating that our identities are awkwardly pieced together from disparate media sources. They strongly suggest that the pace and complexity of the media are harming our ability to form a workable and healthy concept of the self.

On the other hand, the work acknowledges the allure and possibility inherent in a shift from a material body to a cyberspace body. For example, a post-human, cyborg existence might enhance our ability to survive in the face of serious environmental threats or to overcome race and gender differences.  Moreover, the vibrancy of the images suggests that we have the capacity for growth and change, even in a complex and mediated environment.

This artwork is fundamentally a product of current technology and a musing on the role of the individual in contemporary culture. But the work also contains clear references to other historical moments, including impressionism, pointillism, and cubism. The digital artifacts call attention to the way our brains form a recognizable whole out of a network of separate units, in much the same way that impressionism and pointillism did with brushstrokes or patterns of dots. In the tradition of cubism, the images expose more than one vantage point at a time and exist on the very edge between representation and abstraction.

The subjects are wide-ranging, including random individuals from television broadcasts, self-portraits, and the candidates for President of the United States in the 2008 election, who were chosen because they rely so heavily on the electronic media for their identity.