Leo Selvaggio

Conceptual, interactive, interdisciplinary installation, new media, political, public engagement, sculpture, software, social practice, and technology, are words that describe my art practice. What I am, however, is a creative researcher. I think through making and my experiments in the studio lead to a line of questioning that I build iteratively into a focused and rigorous body of work. My research often examines the entanglement of identity with technology. Like good science fiction that asks, “what if?”, I think of technology as a cultural litmus test of who we are, and use it to extrapolate where we are going.

Recently, my work has engaged the idea of thinking of identity as data that can be manipulated or even corrupted in the face of social media and our increasingly networked society. I am interested in how this “data” is tied to the larger context of surveillance and how the prejudicial architecture our surveillance systems are built upon affects how we perform those identities in public space. 

My work, “URME Surveillance” involves the development of defense technologies used to protect the public from surveillance by using my own identity as material. Rather than camouflage or hide the identities of the masses, this work invites the public to assume and present my identity as an alternative by allowing them to wear my face as a prosthetic. Thus when surveiled, facial recognition systems attribute their actions as mine. By assuming this risk and responsibility, “URME” challenges and allows the viewer to consider the malleability of their own identities by misrepresenting and corrupting my own.

-Leo Selvaggio

Leonardo Selvaggio is an interdisciplinary artist whose work examines the intersection of identity and technology. He has shown work internationally including France, Canada, and Switzerland as well as exhibiting broadly in the United States. He has been awarded an Albert P. Weisman grant for his work, URME Surveillance, and a DCASE IAP Professional Grant from the city of Chicago to present supporting research. In 2016, Leo’s work was exhibited both nationally at the Wende Museum in California as part of their Facial Recognition exhibition, as well as internationally, most notably as part of the Safe and Sound exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts in Switzerland and the Rendering Realities exhibition held in conjunction with the 2016 Big Brother Awards in Amsterdam. In 2015 Selvaggio was noted as a featured artist as part of Chicago Artist Month. His work was also selected for the Art Souterrain festival in Montreal, the ISEA conference in Vancouver, and the Saint-Etienne Design Biennial in France. URME Surveillance was also adapted for television in an episode of CSI: Cyber titled “Selfie 2.0.” Selvaggio’s work has also been featured and written about in various notable publications: HyperallergicTechcrunch, The Washington PostCNETThe VergeThe Creator's Project and others. Selvaggio’s academic work has been published in the International Journal for Performance Arts and Digital Media and as part of “Behind the Smart World - Saving, deleting and resurfacing data,” published by LAFKON. He holds a BFA from Rutgers University and an MFA from Columbia College’s Interdisciplinary Arts program. 

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