“As We Are” is a fourteen-foot, 3-D universal human head made from ribbons of ultra-bright, LED screens. In the back of the neck is a photo booth capable of taking 3D pictures. Once a visitor has their picture taken, they step out of the booth and their head is displayed on the giant head.
photo by Ellen Dalagher.
The sculpture addresses 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.
photo by Ellen Dalagher.
‘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.
photo by Ellen Dalagher.
There are twenty-nine cameras taking simultaneous pictures of the visitor’s face. A 3D model of the participant is also made and all twenty-nine images are stitched together on to the model.
This allows the system to slightly modify the placement of the eyes and length of nose to better fit the form of the head.
This speaks to the use of photographic manipulation software in the hands of the general public. Whether aspiring to an ideal or toying with identity, the democratic means to change appearance brings into play the fluid nature of identity.
Images made on “As We Are” are called portraits.
An underlying theme of my work is technology in service of communication. It runs through my practice and my teaching. Without substance, technology is either a tool or a parlor trick.
Additionally, my work focuses on quiet and insignificant moments of everyday life. Interaction requires time, focus and yields an open-ended, multi-layered experiece.
‘As We Are’ resides in a public place accessible by all and is designed to achieve an imposing stature similar to traditional public monuments. It utilizes a power dynamic usually reserved for notable, heroic, governing figures and instead allows every participant to experience a modern representation of acknowledgment.
It asks all viewers to contemplate portraits of people from different ethnicities and gender identities.
The height of the sculpture is 14’ tall
The finished piece weighs over 7200Lbs.
There are over 850,000 individual LEDs.
There are 29 cameras taking a simultaneous picture of the visitor’s face.
During the day, the sculpture faces into the atrium. At night, it rotates to face outward to the street.
It will run for seven to ten years in the Columbus Convention Center Atrium in Columbus, Ohio at the corner of Goodale and High St.
"As We Are" makes portraits in the same way that a painting or a photo is an artist's representation of their subjects. They are edited interpretations, removing some information and recontextualizing identity. In this instance, technology is part of the form and an automated system to which I'm drawing a parallel with social media. Absolutely it is strange but even stranger, it seems to be getting less strange.
Because this sculpture is the first of its kind, there was no way to know how people would react. From my own experience, I knew that it would be very intense for some participants. I suspected that many that would love to have their picture taken and some would not want to go anywhere near the photo booth.
I guessed many people would take pictures to share on social media, conceptually amplifying the message.
What I did not expect was the exceptional amount of time people would spend gazing at the ever-changing parade of faces. Visitors seem content just to stand and watch. Thousands of years of portaiture, can’t be wrong.
What continues to amaze me is the variations of expression that show up on social media. People convey delight, shock, pride and post self-depricating remarks. Some are using it as a canvas.
Responses in comments to these posts range from support to curioistity, humor to aversion. Clearly something is happening on a visceral level.
“As We Are” is intentionally self-reflexive but not in a didactic way. Social media and its affect on culture, on humanty is a complex issue worth consideration.
That the sculpture magnifies one’s presence in a public space, simply amplify and call into question the relationships we have through and with these digital intermediaries.
It is a testament to the talent, expertise and artful nature of all who devoted time and effort to seeing “As We Are” through, that the finished work looks so much like the original proposal
It should not go without saying that I may have concieved the project and outlined possible technologies but there is no possible way that this could have been built without a diverse array of extraordinary individuals.
The lion’s share of the build credit belongs to Design Communications Limited of Boston with Jeff Grantz as Project Lead, Tom Saylor as the Project Manager and McCandless Pierce on New Media Management.
There are so many more great people involved.