Installation, 2013

Ian Willcock (UK)

You. Here. Now. is a dynamic portrait system that produces images which hover between representing the viewer and representing the time and social preoccupations at the instant the viewer engages with the installation.

The system constantly trawls the websites of selected news organisations and downloads all the visual imagery it comes across. These images are then used to provide a large number of fragments, each of which reflects the preoccupations and priorities of the news gathering organisations, but which are (because of their size) prevented from functioning iconically. The fragments are all catalogued and stored, together with their average colour value in a constantly evolving database. This is the palette from which the work constructs portraits of those who interact with it.

To engage with You. Here. Now., all that is required is an investment of time; the passer-by must pause a while. As they examine the piece, a portrait of their face will gradually emerge from a background of several hundred tiny fragments which are in a continuous state of flux. Through the currency of its materials and specificity of its location, the resulting image is a portrait which is a product of the specific time it was created. It carries within its basic materials references to wider narratives of power and place from which both the work and the portrait have emerged. Looking at the large image on the screen, the viewer can only see the vaguest outlines of themselves emerge, their attention is drawn to the vibrancy of the continually adapting image and its constituent detail. Their perception will transition between the recognition of vague outlines—colours of garments, shapes of faces— and the kaleidoscopic, almost hypnotic, play of hundreds of picture elements.

However, taking a picture of the piece on a mobile phone and looking at the image on a small screen, removes the detail and wider context, and reveals their portrait as a familiar representation. Emptied of detail, they recognise themselves.

Artist's Statement

In creating this, I was concerned about the context for digital art; for many works, there is no context other than that provided by the technical means of its presentation—the type of device or computer that it requires to be presented. Other than this, the work is the same in any part of the world, at any time, and for any viewer. As an artist interested in social process, this placing of artefacts and experiences outside of the usual means for developing cultural meaning and reference is troubling and unsatisfactory. You. Here. Now. attempts to make the viewer’s perception, the site of the installation, and the instant that it is encountered essential parts of the experience of the work. It requires the user to make decisions about the way they will view it and hence what they will see. It draws its materials in real-time from news items ensuring that each experience is the result of both individual choice and collective, time-dependent preoccupations.