Four photographs of the artist’s and models used in the “Viral” edition of Women’s Studies Quarterly. Model Krystal Garner, Kate Feldman, Jasmine Lord (Photographer), and Veronica Jauriqui. It is interesting to see the juxtaposition of the models physical profiles and their descriptive word clouds aggregated from their collective experiences and projected onto each unique profile.
When we think of something as “viral,” we often think of the transit of electronic information at an intensified speed and reach. Viral also refers to indiscriminate exchanges, often linked with notions of bodily contamination, uncontainability, and unwelcome transgression of border and boundaries. In this issue of WSQ, the editors invite a rethinking of institutions of education, family, religion, health, military, media, and law to inaugurate an inventive cultural criticism on topics ranging from social media, hacking, clouding, and financial markets to pollution, genetics, and robotics.
Of course I wasn’t yet posing for the “real” portrait yet when this shot was taken: I was yapping away while Jasmine took some sample shots. But I liked this one best – even though I was hell-bent on creating a strict profile portrait in the Renaissance vein. I was surprised at how my background as an English PhD came through, and it was hilarious to see that my proclivity for tongue in cheek horror and my high school obsession with Led Zepplin registered as well. So much of what makes me feel like who I am is the culture that I greedily consume, and this portrait certainly reflects that.
Women’s Studies Quarterly asked Johanna Blakley to provide a multimedia piece for the “Alerts & Provocations” section of the June 2012 issue. The theme? VIRAL. The editors asked Blakley to expand upon a TED talk she’d given on Social Media & the End of Gender. In both, Blakley explores the implications of women’s demographic dominance of social media platforms all around the world. The multimedia component of the WSQ piece lives here on Tumblr and on Pinterest and was conceived by Johanna Blakley, Veronica Jauriqui, Sarah Ledesma and photographer Jasmine Lord.
The “Media in Our Image” portraits meld together Renaissance conventions of portrait painting with contemporary visual data mining. The goal was to create augmented portraits of ourselves that tell people more about our taste, values and beliefs than about our demographic coordinates. We used word clouds, which reflect the relative frequency of words within a data set, to summarize social media preferences and profile data from each of the portrait subjects. Inspired by lace veils that both reveal and obscure the subject, we projected each sitters’ own metadata on their physical bodies, creating a veil of revealing data.
Thanks to Kate Feldman and Krystal Garner for revealing themselves to us. You can find the WSQ article here.
The words you see on Jasmine’s portrait represent a progression of her life experiences from childhood to young adulthood. From her home town of South-Western Sydney, to her work on the Eastern Beaches before she left her home city, to her time working on the Great Barrier Reef leading up to her current residency here in Los Angeles. Her passion for her craft & the tools involved are reflected in various words whiles the dominant and most important word; family still stands bold and clear. No matter where in the world you are, how hard you are working & how much you give to the universe, your family is your core & keeps you centered.
Choosing information for the word cloud projected as a “Viral Veil” over my portrait proved quite the challenging prospect. When given the opportunity to compose a self portrait often the self can get in the way of a comprehensive representation. However, collaborating with Johanna, Veronica and Jasmine really helped flush out ideas about how one chooses to project oneself and how society absorbs that reflection and creates a panoptic view of self representation.
Delving deeper into creating a “Viral Veil” for myself, I first used services such as Wordle and Tagxedo to aggregate words from my social media profiles and RSS feeds. As you start to examine what is trending in your personal social media dialogues it is important to note the content is a mix bag of insights both flattering and unbecoming to your personal profile. In the true fashion of Narcissus. it’s like looking in a mirror of how you represent yourself using the meta data world and that data does not lie because it is based off the content you choose to post.
Like any self-reflection and examination there are things we love and accept about ourselves and there are things we would rather forget and bury deep within. The brilliance of this project is its ability to highlight social media as a means to re-imagine ourselves in the world as well as a means to understand the concrete truth to who we are whether we like that projection or not.
So often as women we’re defined by such superficialities — how we look, how we dress. It was so refreshing to be able to strip away the physicalities and define myself on my own terms, by my interests and passions. This experiment and — in a larger sense — social media itself creates this new wonderful lens through which we can project ourselves onto the world. I can love French cooking and Jane Austen novels and still be down with 90s Hip Hop and Andre Ethier. In what other realm of life is that possible?
Barcelona-based DJ and pop culture scholar Eduard Minobis sent me a link to Kate Wax’s latest album, Dust Collision. I loved the music, but I was also immediately struck by the way she used typography and portrait photography on the album cover. According to art director Niels Wehrspann, “The idea behind the whole typographic layout is a literal transcription of Dust Collision. These «whirling letters» will be on all releases related to the album.”
When I had the opportunity to sit down and come up with a list of words that would somehow define me, it was more difficult than I thought it would be. I focused on my desires - starting with the physical, and building to the more abstract. As you can see, I have a strong affinity for cheese. I grew up traveling the world. I have an enduring desire to be a badass. And yes, I love shoes. So where does that leave me? At the moment, it leaves me as a twenty-six year old writer based out of Los Angeles, but living in Morocco. C’est la vie.
Kate Ryan is an independent freelance writer living abroad in Morocco. Read all about her Journey on her travel blog Girl Meets Morocco. Kate is a creative fiction writer with works published with Take 180 studios.
New York-based Artist, Michael Mapes takes portraits, dissects them and then places them into specimen boxes, creating this curiously scientific approach to beauty & preservation. You can see this one and others like it at his virtual lab at room62.com.