Below you will find: 

  1. A recent work sample (please feel free to explore the rest of my website for other works)

  2. Statement

  3. Student work samples


Recent Work: 2017-18

If I Can't See Them

In early 2017 I was given the opportunity to contextualize my surveillance work as a commission for McLeish Field Station at Smith College, a 20 acre forested ecological preserve used by both the college and local community. The college's drone program implemented by Smith's Spatial Analysis Lab has met resistance from community members, voicing their disapproval of being watched from above by the college's fleet of drones. Thinking about drones and other sky-based imaging technologies, such as satellites, within the rural, isolated, tree-lined fields of McLeish, I borrowed from the famous philosophical thought experiment, "If a tree falls in the woods, no one is there to hear, does it make a sound", to think about the relationship between these surveillance technologies and this community by creating an installation thats asks "If I can't see them, am I seen?". As part of the work, nature has acted as a collaborator, providing camouflage by growing up and around the installation, making the relationship between viewer and the viewed even more blurred. 


URMEDEMIREVERSOPTICON is the inverse of "If I Can't See Them: brought inside the gallery from the outside world. Where as the latter installation outwardly refracts the image of the landscape from a central point, the mirrors in URMEDEMIREVERSOPTICON are arranged into a funnel, creating a reflected inner space that multiples the viewer standing within it's center, with the option to put on the URME Surveillance Prosthetic. These mirrors act as agents of surveillance. The sandbags that support the mirrors and prevent them from falling over are embossed with word pairings and phrases that explore the enmeshed complexity of surveillance culture.  This work is currently on view at Paul Robeson Galleries at Rutgers University  through January 2019


Am I seen: The Reciprocal Nature of Identity

The experience of creating "If I Can't Be Seen" lead to writing an essay "Am I Seen: The Reciprocal Nature of Identity", which is about to be published by Routledge as a chapter for the upcoming book, The Evolution of the Image: Political Action and the Digital Self . URMEDEMIREVERSOPTICON is the natural outcome of this essay. To read a draft, please click here 

URME Surveillance (2014 - Present)

URME Surveillance asserts my identity as a defense technology against facial recognition surveillance systems. By asking the wearer to present themselves as me in public space by wearing a photo realistic 3D-printed prosthetic of my face. URME Surveillance subverts large networked surveillance systems through the creation and proliferation of disinformation. In addition to concerns of privacy, URME Surveillance is a platform to discuss systems of power and oppression by engaging in a discussion of white male privilege in public space and exposing such privilege as a component of patriarchal power that denies basic freedoms to the majority of Americans. Please watch the following short video for more information. 


for additional information click on the names below to navigate to the corresponding device on the URME Surveillance website.

Above is a GIF demonstrating the URME Facial Video Encryptor.


Below is a variation of it working live in the gallery.

URME Surveillance (Gallery Expression)

URME Surveillance, as it exists in the gallery, is an ever evolving an interactive and sculptural installation that challenges viewers to consider the malleability of their identities by misrepresenting and corrupting my own. Each time URME Surveillance exhibited, I have used new materials and compositions to provide each audience with a unique expression of the work while allowing me to prototype different forms of exhibition design and audience engagement. Below you will see images from URME's first exhibition at the Columbia College Chicago MFA Thesis Exhibition in 2014 as well as variations To see the public expression of URME Surveillance visit www.urmesurveillance.com

Weisman Award Exhibition @ Arcade Gallery

A-T-T-E-N-T-I-O-N @ Saint-Etienne Design Bienneal

Facial Recognition Exhibition @ Wende Museum

Public Engagement 

Public Engagement is critical to URME Surveillance mission as well as its sustainability as an ongoing project. Through lectures, workshops, and other methods, URME will continue to work with the public to examine structures of power, prejudice, and privilege within surveillance practice . Below are some examples of how I have engaged publics in the past. In addition, I have created an active community on Facebook with an audience of approximately 500. 

Art Souterrain Public Art Festival 2015

Art Souterrain is an annual festival that floods Montreal's underground tunnels and buildings with over 60 public art works. URME Surveillance was invited to exhibit its Facial Video Encryption software. In addition over 200 URME Paper Masks were distributed on opening night. I spent 3 hours talking with the public about my project and how it fit this years theme of security it public spaces.

GASP 2014: Green Art & Social Practice Fair

Copy of Transient

As part of the Green Art and Social Practice Festival, I engaged pedestrians with educational materials, a prosthetic, mirrors, and gave them take home paper masks. I spoke with about 35 people.

URME Surveillance Public Workshop

We began with an active discussion about surveillance and its connection to identity, prejudice, and power. Participants were  invited to make paper masks of themselves or of the artist's face to be worn in a walk to Crown Fountain. All activities were challenge-by-choice. This is the first time that the public was invited to use their own faces for this  project.

Selected Press

Select Presentations and PublicationS

  • For excerpts of my essays at writings, click here

  • 2017 Presenter at Better World By Design Conference, Brown University

  • 2016 my paper, URME Surveillance: Performing Privilege in the Face of Automation was published in the International Journal of Performance and Digital Media.

  • 2015 CAA Panel Surveillance as Art Material chaired by Jessamyn Lovell and Trish Stone

  • 2015 presentation and publication at the ISEA 2015 conference

Next Phase: WERUS Surveillance

URME Surveillance currently operates with only one identity, my own. Because of this, it is only a matter of time until facial recognition systems target my face as suspicious, defeating the purpose of the project. In order to sustain the project's function as a defense against surveillance, while at the same time engaging  themes of power and prejudice against race, class, and gender, the next phase will involve the public donating their identities to the project. Thus, it will be harder to identify a URME user due to the variety of faces the user can choose from. Furthermore, discourse will occur on how "effective" each face may be based on its race, gender, or other identifying characteristic. That discourse will expose the prejudicial architecture upon which surveillance is built. No long will you be wearing my face, but we will be wearing each others' faces. WE R US

URME Polygons (2014-15)

Originally conceived for the 2014 College Arts Association exhibition Art2Make curated by V1B3URME Polygons explores my interests in identity, data, and the open source movement. my work often experiments with and subverts the proposed stability of our identities through the creation and proliferation of disinformation. This disinformation often lives in the form of the document or documentation, borrowing its authoritative voice to masquerade as “truth”.

This concept emerges from an earlier work, YouAreMe.net, in which I “open-source” the authorship of my cyber identity to the public, allowing them full access to my social media accounts via an interactive website. This project left me with a clear understanding that our “selves” exist as highly curated archives that are constantly in flux.

Similarly, URME Polygons disrupts these archives by asserting myself within the documentation surrounding several historical figures, thus appropriating their identities as my own. URME Polygons replaces the faces in 3D printable models from Thingiverse’s creative commons collection of artifacts from around the world with my own, creating a new hybrid document. What does it mean that there is now “Portrait of Pericles” sitting on pedestal with my face on it? Am I Pericles? Is Pericles Leo Selvaggio? In 50, 100, or 2000 years- when other people, robots, or aliens are looking at the archive- will that distinction even matter? Through the lens of historical revisionism, these documents question our current practices surrounding identity

In addition, URME Polygons invites the public to download and use my face anyway you see fit. They are encouraged to turn me into a video game character, manipulate the polygons of my face, or 3d print my face into a mask or other object, etc.

The above images are taken from the Document exhibition at Woman Made Gallery in Chicago 2015

To experience the 3D models yourself, click on the browsers below and use your mouse to explore.

EyeSight Surveillance Window (2013)

ESW is first and foremost a spectacle. Projected onto a window, pedestrians from across the street and the surrounding area see a video of giant human eyeball, moving and blinking in real time.  The pupil of this eye serves as a mask for a live video feed of small discrete area across the street. When a pedestrian walks through this area, they see themselves in the center of the Eye.  Below the eye, are three other video images stacked horizontally each tinted in one of the tri-chromatic colors according to human color vision theory: Red, Green or Blue. As the pedestrian moves with-in the surveiled area (wave hand, jump up and down, move left to right) they immediately notice that there motion causes the three images to become less fragmented and tinted until finally they become whole fullly formed legible color images. Then the viewer may also notice that each of the three videos is actually a recording of others that previously inhabited the surveiled area. ESW was made using Max/MSP with Jitter. 

Mock Up of Eyesight Surveillance Window 2013

ESW at Manifest Urban Arts Festival 2013

ESW at Block 37 as part of the Chicago Loop Alliance 2013

YouAreMe.Net (2012)

In 2012, I became fascinated with post-human discourse as it applies to identity. I was also introduced to and inspired by the open-source movement. Open source, a method of providing and promoting free redistribution, use, and public access to technology, has been traditionally applied to technological applications such as software and hardware.

My work, www.youareme.net, explores what happens when the methodology of open sourcing is applied to identity. In effect, I have relinquished control over the creation of my persona online, and have provided to the public my identity and image as material to be manipulated, created, and even destroyed by providing access to logins, passwords, private images, and biographical information. In our highly surveiled and sensitive society, I am interested in what a public might do with open access to my information. I am not only concerned with the dynamics of supposed public and private information, but also with the carefully curated creation of an online identity. How do social technologies like Facebook shape the way we present ourselves, and how do we go about editing the realities of our lives for online consumption? And if we create or recreate ourselves through our technologies, who exactly could I be, if that process is one open to public discourse. Could this expand the possibilities of who I am, or ruin my cyber-social relations and credibility?

(due to maintenance issues the website is currently unavailable but is slated to be relaunched on a new platform)

2. Statement 

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.

 Selvaggio presenting a lecture on his work.

Selvaggio presenting a lecture on his work.

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. 

For example, in “URME Surveillance”, rather than hide the public from cameras, this work invites the public to wear a photorealistic prosthetic of my face. Thus, when surveiled, facial recognition systems attribute the wearer's actions as my own, challenging the user to consider their own identity in relationship to technology while disrupting highly networked surveillance systems through disinformation.

My work strives to produce civic engagement through workshops, social media, and interactions with the public. This engagement has made it clear that surveillance is a system that values white men over all others. My work resists this milky homogenization by producing platforms that not only protect the public from surveillance but creating spaces to collaborate on the deconstruction of such systems.

                                                               -Leo Selvaggio

3. Student Work Sample

Though I have never been an instructor on record, I have had varied experiences in supporting student research, most recently in my role running the Prototyping Studio for the Design Thinking Initiative at Smith College as well as other more directly art related experiences such as the ones below. I enjoy the educational exchange between student and instructor and hope to develop more teaching experience as I continue my career. To see a copy of my Teaching Philosophy please click here

Sound as Art Material 2013

Graduate Level Course taught by Paul Catanese, Columbia College Chicago. As Paul's Graduate Assistant,  my responsibilities included prepping the audio lab, running demonstrations, facilitating presentations, correspondence with students, and file management. I also held office hours weekly in which I worked one on one with students on their projects. 

Morgan Sayers MFA 2016

???? Wearable Sound Sculpture

Images by Leo Selvaggio

Sid Branca MFA 2015

"Radio Radio Radio was an interactive sound installation and performance. It is an exploration of cultural agency, attention, violence, and the dark underpinnings running through popular media. The first iteration of this project took place at Columbia College Chicago in Spring 2013. Created using Max/MSP, Soundflower, and MIDI controllers, it allowed me and members of the audience to manipulate audio from Chicago area police scanners and popular radio stations." -Sid Branca.  Images by Leo Selvaggio.

Experimental Techniques in Photography

Undergraduate Level Course taught by Alison Carey, Columbia College Chicago. As a Teaching Observer for Alison, My responsibilities included assisting the instructor, and working with the students in the darkroom covering cyanotype, vandyke brown, and liquid emulsion printing techniques applied to a variety of traditional and non traditional surfaces. I was also expected to provide critique and talke one-on-one with the students on their projects. The following are images of final projects submitted by the students