The Metamorphosis of Self and Identity in Digital Era
The initial idea of “ The Metamorphosis of Self and Identity in Digital Era ” emerged when I noticed that many physical copies of books made from paper, are being digitized and transformed into the form of e-books. Nevertheless, the evolution of information technology changed the way we live forever. People in the near future might not need physical storage device to keep their crucial data (e.g. ; personal memory, emotions) as the only thing that is needed to do the task is “the cloud”.
I then realized how scientific and technological development have significant impacts on social revolution in various aspects. Considering how social network (especially, Facebook) has strong influence on human behavior these days, we probably have to admit that the power of this particular IT evolution is far more than we had ever imagined. It might be true to say that some people spend their time in the virtual reality much more than interacting with real people around them in the real world.
In 1968, at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden, Andy Warhol said
“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”
In my opinion, Warhol’s statement is becoming more than true in our age. With the use of Facebook, anyone could be a celebrity in one click. In this digital space, through their avatars, individuals could turn themselves into anything that they would like to be, just to raise their popularity in the virtual society. It doesn’t matter who you’re or how you look like in the real world anymore, what people care is how you express yourself on cyberspace. To me, sometimes it seems like those social network users are evolving from human being to another kind of being, the being that does not physically exist in reality. Metaphorically, I would call this social phenomenon another form of “Metamorphosis”, the same process that a caterpillar turns into a beautiful butterfly.
This project consists of 5 artworks listed below. Each of them evolved from the core idea above and presented in different art forms and mediums.
1. "Chameleon’s CORE" (installation art)
“Death” is usually defined as the end of one’s life. Whereas in some cultures, people believe it is the beginning of a new journey. Considering virtual lives on social networks, especially Facebook, we could probably see new profiles endlessly emerge all the time. Meanwhile, some accounts could be deactivated and abandoned at anytime. Therefore, the identities of those individuals are becoming more and more complex, confusing and unreliable. At times, we might not be sure who we are interacting with in this virtual space. Could we possibly say that the Buddhist concept of impermanence could also apply to the mutability of individuals' identities on cyberspace?
This artwork depicts the idea via a series of 19 edge-lit acrylic sheets with LED strips hidden beneath. The image of human body’s cross section is engraved on each sheet. Once the LED strips are fully illuminated, the installation reveals a full body of a man floating in a transparent coffin which is re-interpreted as a space where one’s life ends and another life begins. Based on Tibetan Buddhism's concept of "The Bardo", The core concept of this work is to explore the transitional states of the deconstruction and formation stages of self and identity in virtual world.
2. "The Formation of Shell" (installation art)
In 2006 Warner Bros released “A Scanner Darkly” a sci-fi thriller feature film. This Rotoscope movie, directed by Richard Linklater, based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, features a remarkable invention called “A Scramble Suit”. According to the novel, the acclaimed American writer gave a description on this technological breakthrough as below...
“ The scramble suit was an invention of the Bell laboratories, conjured up by accident by an employee named S. A. Powers... Basically, his design consisted of a multifaceted quartz lens hooked up to a million and a half physiognomic fraction-representations of various people: men and women, children, with every variant encoded and then projected outward in all directions equally onto a superthin shroudlike membrane large enough to fit around an average human.
As the computer looped through its banks, it projected every conceivable eye color, hair color, shape and type of nose, formation of teeth, configuration of facial bone structure - the entire shroudlike membrane took on whatever physical characteristics were projected at any nanosecond, then switched to the next...
In any case, the wearer of a scramble suit was Everyman and in every combination (up to combinations of a million and a half sub-bits) during the course of each hour. Hence, any description of him - or her - was meaningless”.
At the moment, this invention might only exist in a novel or a film. However, considering how people these days present themselves through their avatars on social networks, we might find that the ambiguity and blurriness of self and identity in the boundary of virtual world and reality, are not much different from how the scramble suit works. The numbers of “Like”, “Share” “Retweet” have been critically affected on the way that people construct their identities on cyberspace.
3. "Perpetual Pilgrimage" (installation art)
Evolved from John Locke’s theory of personal identity overtime and Jacque Lacan’s concept of “Mirror Stage”, this particularly work, “Perpetual Pilgrimage” is a multimedia installation exploring the notion of self-awareness in a similar demeanour to Buddhism's walking meditation. Stepping through each section of a tunnel-like structure, the proximity sensors hidden in the ceiling activate relays (electrical switch) to turn each red LED light strip on and off at different tempos. Simultaneously, the image of an audience being captured by a camera is fed through "Live Video Delay" application. Then, the delayed video image generated by the application is projected onto the rear projection screen at the end of the tunnel, in front of the audience. Theoretically, the lagged images repetitively appear within themselves eternally. Seeing the image on the screen, it is analogous to witnessing a digital chronicle of oneself, taking an endless journey through the tunnel to an unknown destination.
4. "Visual Element" (video art)
“Visual Element” is a surreal short film portraying an ironic reflection of individuals’ identity loss in materialistic society.
The film depicts a story of Chin, an artist who works for Mr.A, an art dealer. The painter has a weird hobby. He has been trying to assemble a full body of human from burnt organs that he has gathered from different places. With a white head he has just collected, his goal is eventually achieved. The body then become alive as a grayscale figure of a man.
5. "16 X 9 Capsule" (video art)
“16×9 Capsule” shows fragments of time and incidents taking place at particular locations around Bangkok. Camera observed different situations in various conditions, ranging from trivial moments in a ordinary day to crucial circumstances in political history of Thailand. Metaphorically, each place used as background in the video is defined as a receptacle of temporal matters, exploring a Buddhism's concept of impermanence saying that everything keeps rising, standing and cessation. They eternally and inevitably change. Only memory remains as an evidence of their existence.
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