Watchful Portrait


John Gerrard (IE)
Erwin Reitböck (AT)
Werner Pötzelberger
Roland Haring
Robert Praxmarer (AT)

Janus, the double-faced Roman god of day and night, inspired John Gerrard’s “Watchful Portrait.” “Caroline,” his real-time 3-D model, follows the course of the sun by day and the moon by night.

Here, Gerrard pursues a new paradigm according to which the work is oriented on the world in its entirety and is no longer especially interested in or reacts to the participation of human beings. His “Watchful Portrait” consists of two portraits of Caroline. Two picture screens that can be swiveled in a range of directions enable visitors to view both images while Caroline continues to follow one of the two heavenly bodies.

As with Janus, whose shrines—usually just portals—were opened during wartime and closed during times of peace, a user, following his/her visit, can leave open either the empty, minimalist side of the images or the side with the portraits. In either case, the position of the images does not influence Caroline’s activities.

The development of the 3-D object brought many new temporal and conceptual contexts with it, and these have opened up interesting areas of research for artists. They can be clearly differentiated from older media in that they have no limited, terminal duration. Initial reactions to these contexts include works that undergo change in real time in order to simulate processes that take hundreds if not thousands of years to be consummated.

Realized through the support of Siemens AG within the framework of the Siemens Artist-in-Residence Project at Ars Electronica 2004.