Networked Portrait


John Gerrard (IE)
Erwin Reitböck (AT)
Martin Bruner (AT)
Andreas Jalsovec

Fresh from the barber and sporting their best clothes—that’s still the way people today go to a photographer to have their portrait taken. And many are still not satisfied with the result because their wrinkles still show, their smile isn’t wide enough and their shirt or blouse is wrinkled. But now, “Networked Portrait” makes it possible for anybody to change a portrait at will.

To start with, the visitor is confronted by two monitors from which two faces are peering at him. He is now requested to utilize the touchscreen to modify the portraits any way he wishes. As soon as the user has created the desired facial expression, he can swivel the two monitors to face one another and watch what happens.

Following the swivel, the focus of faces’ attention shifts from the user whom they had been scrutinizing to the other portrait across from them with which each has suddenly been confronted. This contact triggers a series of reactions that depends on the original facial expression created by the user. The fullness and form of the new facial expressions are evaluated by special software (Ekman’s Facial Action Coding System), which results in a sliding scale with reactions over which the user has no control.

The development of such photographic portraits that can be regarded from all sides is a watershed in the history of photography since the individual photographic element that computer technology has long since divorced from the conception of a true-to-life depiction becomes the object. The newly animated “photographs” can exist in the installation space in that they react to participants, act on their own, or simply do nothing.

“Networked Portrait” was realized within the framework of the Ars Electronica Futurelab Artist-in-Residence Program and made possible by the Pépinières européennes pour jeunes artistes 2003.

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Networked Portrait