Thank you for considering my application to the LACMA Art + Technology Grant. Below you will find:
- An online version of the submitted PDF for reference.
- A recent work sample of URME Surveillance (please feel free to explore the rest of my website for other works)
- Supporting materials for the URME Surveillance Commission Project and Exhibition
- Vision statement for WERUS
- Related work sample
- Artist statement, Bio and CV.
1. PDF Proposal
2. URME SURVEILLANCE WORK SAMPLE
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 interactive and sculptural installation that challenges viewers to consider the malleability of their identities by misrepresenting and corrupting my own. To see the public expression of URME Surveillance visit www.urmesurveillance.com
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.
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.
GASP: Green Art and Social Practice Festival 2014
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.
Art Souterrain 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.
- Hyperallergic article by Ben Valentine
- Makeshift Magazine Interview by Maria Gallucci
- CNET article by Leslie Katz
- 3Dp's article by Shanie Phillips
- Washington Post article by Gail Sullivan
- The Creator's Project article by Zach Sokol
- The Verge article by Jacob Kastrenakes
- Fast Company article by Suzanne LaBarre
- The State of Surveillance Today by Bill Brown of the Surveillance Camera Players
Presentations and Publication
- 2015 CAA Panel Surveillance as Art Material chaired by Jessamyn Lovell and Trish Stone
- 2015 my paper, URME Surveillance: Performing Privilege in the Face of Automation was published in the International Journal of Performance and Digital Media.
- 2015 a version of the paper above was presented and published at the ISEA 2015 conference
- 2014 Personal Experience of Surveillance; presentation and panel at NEW inc, New Museum, NY, NY
3. URME SURVEILLANCE COMMISSION PROJECT SUPPORTING MATERIALS:
In my career as an artist I have had several personal and professional experiences that qualify me to launch, manage, and otherwise support a commission based program into fruition. In addition to my current role as Exhibition Coordinator at Columbia College Chicago, the most relevant experience I have had was my work creating, curating and directing the Fountains Foundation at 916.
In 2013, I founded an alternative space at Columbia College Chicago. The Fountains Foundation at 916, an alternative, project driven, public art space set in the second floor hallway of the 916 S. Wabash building. Honing my marketing, networking and outreach skills, through The Fountains I have curated 10 site-specific artists’ projects, including the work of: Alberto Aguilar, Annette Barbier, and Miriam Schaer. Through this I have created a sustainable infrastructure for exhibition and community development which includes a website, publishing brochures, and recently the development of an online media library.
Public Media Library
The Fountains Foundation at 916 conducted several interviews with participating artists, creating several mini documentaries that explored their projects and the artists' practice, providing my audience with additional insight into the work before them. These videos were hosted online and free to view and download to the public. Here is one example of such a video for Dennis Burke's Corporeal Housing. Dennis Burke was a MFA Thesis student at Columbia at the time.
A brochure was made for every project and available for free at project site. These brochures often consisted of images, the artist's project statement, essays by guest writers, bio, and other material for the public to take and contemplate later on. Here is one example from Nicholas Sagan's Cloud MQ-9
4. Vision Statement WERUS:
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. The next iteration of the work will have facial prosthetics that ideally represent every race, gender-expression, age, and sexual orientation. No longer will you be wearing my face, but we will be wearing each others' faces. I imagine a world where there is a one-to-one ratio, with everyone having access to any prosthetic they want to wear that day, including their own. How do we resist surveillance? I am not completely certain, but I know it has to start with an “us”. It is my hope that by beginning with “me”, we can find our way towards a collective power that champions our undeniable human right to self-actualize and express the wonders of our identities.
5. RELATED WORK Sample
URME Polygons (2013-present)
Originally conceived for the 2014 College Arts Association exhibition Art2Make curated by V1B3, URME 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
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.
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 slated to be relaunched on a new platform)
6. Statement + Bio + CV
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.
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.
Leonardo Selvaggio is a Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist whose work examines the entanglement between identity and technology. He has shown work internationally in France, Canada, and Switzerland, and he exhibits 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 to present supporting research. In 2015, Selvaggio was a featured artist as part of Chicago Artist Month. His work was 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 been featured in notable publications: Hyperallergic,Techcrunch, The Washington Post, CNET, The Verge, The 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.