Born Nowhere is an interactive art project that uses Facebook in the process of creation. The works originated in self-portraits of the artist that were modified via digital techniques, resulting in a diverse cast of female individuals. Subsequently, Laís Pontes posted the altered photographs on Facebook and invited fellow users to share their thoughts on, and interpretations of, the newly created personas. Informed by these comments, the artist generates and assigns a name, biography and personality traits to each of the virtual characters. Consequently, a participatory approach is integral to this art project: It is the dialogue opened up via social media that brings the fictional personas into being. Each character’s description is informed by what in psychoanalytical terms is called ‘projection’. According to this theory, the viewer ascribes his own background, reality and fantasies onto others. What one sees is what one wants to see.
Born Now Here
In Born Now Here Laís Pontes returns to her previously created Born Nowhere-characters, transposing the virtual existence of the crowd-sourced Facebook identities into the real world. By wearing each character's typical wardrobe and make-up, and entering into its ascribed behaviours and activities, the artist assumes the fictional persona as an ongoing performance in her everyday life. Thereby, each character's 'journey' into the real world is documented on its personal Facebook account.
Pontes's performance blends elements of the virtual biographies with her personal lived experience, resulting in a fusion of the 'self' and the 'Other'. To explore this further, she transfers the fictional characters to other Facebook-users, which enables her to become an external observer of her own creation. Being performed by different participants, the Born Nowhere characters undergo a continuous transformation, while those assuming their roles experience the inner world of the Other, including differences in race, sexuality, gender, class, and career.
The Girls on Instagram
In The Girls on Instagram the virtual characters that originated from Pontes’s previous work Born Nowhere transcend the realm of Facebook. In the artist’s second social media art project participation is no longer limited to the online environment, but also occurs in the physical world.
The artist and fellow Instagram users make the characters come alive beyond their virtual presence by interpreting their personality and creating a social environment through photographs which they take during their travels. By staging these images according to their own preferences, the participants not only determine and shape the character’s existence in real-life spaces, but also allow them to become part of their personal life and experiences. The pictures are subsequently posted on Instagram to document the characters’ adventures, due to which The Girls on Instagram remains in a constant state of flux and expansion.
Virtual Masks evolved out of Pontes’s social media art project Born Nowhere that originated from using Facebook as a platform to crowd-source identities. By digitally modifying a variety of self-portraits, the artist created a diverse cast of fictional personas which she posted on Facebook, inviting fellow users to share their thoughts and interpretations. Informed by these comments, Pontes created and assigned a fictional name, biography and personality traits to these virtual identities. Thereby, each character’s new persona was mediated by what psychoanalysts call ‘projection’: what the viewer reads into the images is reflective of her/his own background, reality, and fantasies.
With the characters’ faces obscured by QR codes and merely visible in fragments, Virtual Masks imbues the previously unconcealed Born Nowhere portraits with a new aesthetic. This results in the work becoming more evidently suggestive of the notion that, in today’s media-saturated society, people increasingly hide behind the façade of their virtual self-representation. By scanning the QR codes, the viewer gains access to the characters’ personal, yet utterly fictional Facebook accounts, so that these codes form a bridge between the physical artwork and its virtual counterpart on the Web.
My artwork is a process of research into the construction of identity in the age of social media and its contemporary problematic. As a social media artist and user of digital platforms, I am interested in delving into the social and psychological shift in contemporary behavior. By using my body and life to stage experiments, I explore the social media phenomenon and its influence on behavior. My artistic practice exists in the liminal space between the physical and the digital, “reality” and fantasy. I use social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram as tools in the process of creation. I work with participants as co-creators who encounter, interact, interpret, and engage in my art projects. The encounter allows the artwork to take on new form and extend within the spectrum of meaning. My art projects invite viewers to develop a critical view of social media and how it affects our lives.
Laís Pontes was born in Fortaleza, Brazil. She is an interdisciplinary artist who currently lives and works in London. In 2011 she graduated from the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York, and in 2014 received a Masters of Fine Art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).
Pontes‘s artwork is a process of research into social media issues and concerns of our time. Using virtual platforms such as Facebook and Instagram as tools in the process of creation - in the same way as the camera and performance - she explores the impact of social media on identity construction and social perception. In her works, she invites viewers to experience, interact, and develop a critical view about social media and how it affects our lives.
Pontes has been exhibiting her work worldwide. Her works were on display at Data Rush, NOORDERLICHT Photofestival (Groningen, The Netherlands, 2015), Rencontres Internationales de La Photographie (Gaspé, Canada, 2015), Take Ten at the International Center of Photography (New York, 2015), FotoFest Biennial (Houston, 2014), APG Exhibition (Atlanta, 2013), and 6th Arte Laguna Prize in Italy (2012), among others. Her work has been included in well-known magazines and blogs in South Korea, Spain, Italy, USA, Brazil and Mexico. These publications include El País, The Creators Project, Lenscratch, Itsliquid and PDN Pulse.
Pontes has received numerous awards, including the London International Creative Competition Talent of the Year Award (2013); the PX3 Prix de la Photographie, (Paris, 2012), and the Filter Photo Juror’s Prize (Chicago, 2011).
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