Self / Reflection
An interactive installation for a landmark photography exhibition
Museum of Photographic Arts, North Carolina Museum of Art
Concept, Design and Development
| See yourself in the faces of others, and see others in yourself.
Seeing how the lives and stories of others resonate with your own is the foundation of human connection. This theme drives the exhibition 7 Billion Others, which premiered in the U.S. at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, and animates Self/Reflection, a custom interactive experience made for the exhibition by BPOC.
Self/Reflection offers a literal yet lyrical meditation on the theme of empathy and human interconnectedness. From a distance, the 60 inch portrait-mounted screen seems to shimmer with atmospheric shapes gathered from the surrounding gallery. As you approach, you notice that the fleeting pixels are actually portraits–faces of every color, ethnicity and expression–and the image they create together is your own. Your living portrait, captured by an HD video camera, is made up of the portraits of hundreds of other people. Seeing yourself in others, and others in yourself–Self/Reflection presents a digital analog of human connection.
Set amid an exhibition that explores human connectedness, within a museum keenly interested in current visual culture, the interactive installation provides a unique exploration of the “selfie” phenomenon as well. The “selfie” is performed for an audience, and so it is in Self/Reflection, as people photograph themselves in the screen for sharing on Social Media, (Self/Reflection selfies are encouraged), while friends and others look on.
Self/Reflection engages the basic nature of curiosity, enhances the similarities and bridges the differences between each individual visitor and thousands of people all over the world. This technology presents a direct connection between the many facets of the visitor’s own life, contrasted with the intricacies of the portraits surrounding you throughout the gallery. Wishes, hopes and dreams are presented alongside the realities of everyday life. They span across the strata of culture, climate, occupation, religion, and more, all playing out in pixelated reality. Self/Reflection plunges the visitor into a deep connection to the photographs, the museum, the exhibition, and people the world over.
Self/Reflection is written in Processing, an open source programming language developed for the creative coding community. The application is built so the idea can be iterated and new images used as opportunities arise for future gallery environments. Off-the-shelf and repurposed hardware were used to stay within budget.