The Looking Glass; Contracted & Expanding attempts to function as a critical cross-section of contemporary portraiture and the portrayal of identity within the modern age. Founded upon the premise of the video blog as being the most modern form of portraiture, the piece seeks to investigate socio-cultural differences between past and present and how such differences have been articulated through new-media portraits. For starters, the video blog portrait, due to its ubiquitous nature and limitless accessibility, actively challenges our conceptions of subjective and collective significance that predecessor media had established over the centuries. Essentially, the piece asks whether or not the power of canonization innate to the practice of portraiture has been reduced or expanded by new media.
Formally, the objective with the piece is to expose the widening rift between this form of contemporary portraiture and its roots in commemorative portraiture by contextualizing selected video blog portraits within an archaic and somewhat ironic realm of tribute. The piece itself consists of five wooden handmade frames (12.5”x10”) that have been coated in etched copper and brass plates. The plates have been acid etched using a process similar to most methods of circuit board etching, thereby uniting the materials’ connection to contemporary practices of fabrication. The etchings themselves depict classical framing iconography derived from pre-photographic eras wherein the subject of a (painted) portrait was intended to have commemorative or honorary value; an aspect that seems to have been perverted or at the very least watered down by this new method of portrait making. Moreover, the etched framing iconography subtly morphs into arguably more familiar icons that traditionally decorate circuit boards.
Housed inside of the frames are tablet computers that play looped animations ranging from eight seconds in length to forty two seconds. Four of the animations (subjects) are hand-drawn portraits of randomly selected video-bloggers from YouTube. The stills reflect a disparity between the identity projected from a video and that of the identity projected by a two-dimensional portrait, and yet candid shreds of the subject’s honesty and vulnerability shine through the abstracted stills. A single subject is not animated, but instead she remains a single screenshot that attempts to articulate the minute and rare beauty privy to this select medium of portraiture; all the while referencing the medium of photographic portraiture that exists somewhere between a hand fabricated portrait and a video portrait. Altogether, as each ‘portrait’ plays endlessly, ones eyes are fervently pulled in every direction as the viewer attempts to simultaneously digest each of the portraits. This particular action replicates the sensation of binging on Internet personalities and identities, leaving one commonly feeling over-stimulated and under-impressed by the individuals featured therein.