Many might see selfies as the ultimate narcissistic endeavor. From accidentally killing yourself with a selfie-stick to publishing a coffee table book of your own face. There is no doubt the selfie will stand as a symbol of these times. But what happens when the selfie meets arts? Artist, Matthew Mohr wants people to consider that question by interacting with his giant sculpture, ‘As We Are’.
Located at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio, ‘As We Are’ is a permanent sculptural installation that projects your face onto a 4-meter high sculpture made of 23 ribbons LED. “Each portrait is roughly 17 times the size of the person represented,” says Mohr.
Visitors to the installation are invited into the head shaped work of art to be photographed by twenty-nine cameras that then stitch together their images to create a huge, lifelike image which is displayed onto the LED screens. The screens contain over 850,000 LEDs.
Mohr says the ‘selfie’ experience is about exploring the relationship between self and representation of self, “asking the subject of the portrait to reconsider presence through magnification." “It is intended to provide amusement and evoke larger discussions around the phenomena of social media, diversity, and the power dynamic of public art.
‘As We Are’ focuses on the now commonplace act of documenting one’s existence in an effort to connect with others. It considers how self-representation has evolved by confronting the idea of self, and recognition of what we seek in and from other people,” he says.
Saatchi asks is a self-portrait a selfie?
Some art academics argue the selfie isn’t modern at all. In fact, it is as old as art itself, comparing the modern selfies to the long-held art tradition of self-portraits. The difference is the availability of the technology to do it. For instance, in the 17th century there were few that had the means or skills to paint a self-portrait; now almost everyone across the globe has a device close at hand that can capture their image in seconds.
The term ‘selfie’ became commonplace in 2002 and was adopted by the Oxford Dictionary as their word of the in Year in 2013. It is estimated that more than 93 million selfies are taken every day across the globe. But are they art? London based Saatchi Gallery tasked themselves with exploring this idea by presenting the world’s first exhibition dedicated to the history of the selfie called “From Selfie to Self-Expression.” The exhibition which ran from March to July this year examined both the iconic self-portraits from history. Showing works such as Diego Velazquez’s “Las Meninas” (1656), Rembrandt van Rijn’s “Self-portrait with Two Circles” (c. 1665–1669), and Frida Kahlo’s “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird” (1940). As well as the darker side of technologies ability to capture images. This was well described in the work “Zoom Pavilion” by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Krzysztof Wodiczko. Visitors entered a large room that was heavily monitored by black-and-white surveillance footage. The camera's footage was continuously projected onto the walls of the gallery. Facial-recognition algorithms were used by the camera to detect the viewers’ faces and magnify them up to 35 times larger. The room became a mish-mash of visitors' faces from every angle. Often capturing them taking selfies in front of their projected self, creating a sinister atmosphere of watching and being watched.