Surf Your Self continues the work begun fifteen years ago around the concept of Relational Art, a path that has recently, with the evolution of personal computers and the advent of Web 2.0, found new ways of interaction; these changes have made it more obvious, palpable and conveyable any evidence that substantiate the implementation of this particular mode of "making art".
In this sense, beyond the suggestive title, I like to decrypt the work Surf Your Self and the individual elements that define it, borrowing the definition of Gregory Bateson when he speaks of "structure that connects.". Surf Your Self may, in fact, be defined as a structure formed by connecting structures that connect.
The basic idea is the ancient one of the portrait or of the self-portrait, or rather I would say: the representation of the face, ever the extreme attempt to combine the inner self and the phenomenal self – it is no coincidence that Levinas identifies in the face the first dimension that the Other (in all its forms) shows us, because, even in the most distant cultures and opinions, the Other is his Face. Therefore, and primarily, the representation of the Face connects the Self with its inner dimension.
Secondly, it is precisely through the face that take place the most basic and essential of the connections: the one that connects us to the Other. In fact the face exists only where it becomes the recipient of a look: only if the look, in return, re-look at me, that is, it make me exisitng, and thus look at me again, even if only in the narcissistic duality of the mirror. Paraphrasing an often quoted remark of Thomas Hora: "To watch himself, man needs to be looked at by the Other. To be looked at by the Other, it needs to look at the Other. "
In the Face, by far and large is substantiated, to the other and the world, together with our dignified nakedness, the need to connect (to be relate to) to the Other, a prerequisite of the very concept of humanity.
But there is something more that makes the representation of the face a possible metaphor for the discourse about that place Non-Place that is internet.
I refer to the fact that the face, as every node in the network, it is never an evidence; because the face, as every node in the network, always refers to something that lies beyond itself.
The face, as each node of the network, does not give itself with that spontaneity that too often it is presumed. The face is, indeed, the living image of an intricate jungle of information that we have crossed and we went through, which is why it can be surfed like we are surfing the net, following the waves of the signs (aesthetic, temporal, temporary, ...) that are marking it and exceeding it, bringing us to that elsewhere that art knows so well and which, not surprisingly, has often revealed reproducing it.
To this concept of Face as a structure that connects it is now possible to add a further aesthetical example, giving visibility to at least most of those elsewhere to which any representation of the face refers - and on this is basically substantiated Surf Your Self.
Thanks to the network and to the currently available and enabling technologies, I wanted to involve some people in a Relational Art Device for the purpose of producing, precisely, their portrait, or maybe it's better to say their portrait / selfportrait, since it is precisely in the relation / interaction with the subjects themselves and the information that they, through a specific device, provide that it can emerge, in addition to their face (of course), even the other most hidden face made of emotional substance, imaginative, mythobiographycal which is and always was substantial part of the portrait, and that occurs in that space of the imagination confined in the triangle face/portrait - gaze of the artist - eye of the beholder.
So today, thanks to computer technology, it is possible to show, to exhibit, that imaginary territory formed by this triangle, under a new and intriguing luminescence.
This is, precisely, an “Ipertinence” portrait, a term coined by sociologist Derrick de Kerckhove (to whom not coincidentally is dedicated one of the portraits) to signify the particular property of the search engines of the latest generation to be able to return, in the face of a question (query), multiple answers that pertain to it, at different levels, both of language (texts, images, videos, music) and content, in short, whatever has been uploaded to the network and entertains a relationship with that query. The Web and the huge amount of data it contains, which can be quickly displayed, has given us the ability to feel, in a system external to our brain, bonds of relationship between an object and its possible similarities in a manner not dissimilar to how we behave in our reasoning.
Similarly, using the capabilities of the network, each Ipertinence portrait, is able to, starting from a face, to transcend it, penetrating more than it was so far possible, in the plurality of rhizomatic suggestions that the portrait contains and that today, the user can navigate directly, avoiding the classical boundary of the frame.
The ways of achieving such a portrait are obviously many, what matters is to have, in addition to the face, all that other piece of information which actually have shaped it: the stories, emotions, impressions, visions , beliefs, fantasies that underlie and sometimes that take shape in a wrinkle, in a grimace, in a twitch that designs pattern that we struggle to decipher, but which, in a word, we may call "life."
I wanted to travel the paths which metaphorically explain this "life" by asking participants to surf the waves of their history, indulging in that particular mental confusion that is called free association, seeking, that is, to think as little as possible in order to soften the tyranny of reason and let emerge that imaginary matter that deeply substantiates us.
Each of these indications, that we may call "supplementary" to the information inherent the face, was thus transformed into a URL encoded in a mobile-tag, it is a kind of bar code, which can be decrypted through an ordinary mobile phone equipped with a photographic camera and a small software (if you wish you can freely download it here).
When the user photographs the mobile-tag the software will return the web address and its contents, decoding, bringing to light, to stay in our metaphor, the stories that lie hidden behind the signs of each face and which substantiate themselves in the four natural elements of the network: Text, Image, Video, Sound -or in the elements which give body to the World Wide Web giving back Earth, Air, Water and Fire of our pseudoreality.
Thus were born those 5 Ipertinence portraits, that are avoiding the correspondence to the face to which most closely belong, forcing the viewer to a re-creative effort, pushing him, just like the painters of the short tale that opens the exhibition, to surf / imagine where, usually, the more classic portrait was called to a halt.
So, starting from the necessary relationship between the artist and the portraited subject, others relationships are created, as many others as many will be those who will attempt to restore an image to the face, while surfing the subject's portrait and between the network nodes to fill that dark space that separates and unites us the Other.
Translated into English, Marco Maurizio Gobbo