What immediately caught my eye at the Decode exhibition (V&A) was the number of (very different) works related to portraiture – “Venetian Mirror” (Fabrica), “Weave Mirror” (Daniel Rozin) and “Make-Out” (Rafael Lozano-Hemmer).
Of these, “Make-Out” is a networked art work, a category which, in the curators’ words, “draw(s) on the traces of human presence”. To me it is interesting to think of pieces that focus on these traces as their source – online videos, blog posts… an ever-growing archive.
In “Make-Out”, the user’s motion triggers action: the screens show the user’s silhouette made of internet videos of couples looking at each other. As the user passes by, the couples start kissing, and stop when there’s no one to “watch”. So a user’s presence – a voyeur, really – “spreads” and “provokes” the love… in his own “reflection”.
The 8,000 film clips were chosen to reflect the proportion of the videos that are online: “50 per cent woman-woman, 30 per cent man-man and 20 per cent man-woman” according to the artist. Calling the user a voyeur in this case gives it another dimension: when thinking of the production of such videos, one’s reminded that the gaze is male.
The actual installation at V&A was not as interesting as the one showed above, since the screens were at a wall, and like all the other artworks, there was barely space between them.
Looking back at Munster’s chapter on the networked book – The Work of Networked Art in an Age of Imperceptibility – I think Lozano-Hemmer’s work is an interesting way of aggregating data (online videos of couples kissing) according to a certain rule he observed (the proportion in which they appear) and presenting the results of such investigation back to the user as its own reflection. Like a mirror, the work only shows (completes) itself when there’s someone standing there to see. There’s more to this work than meets the eye…