Revolving Portrait

by Danny Gordon

Unstable likenesses, automated compositions. Programmed by Ryland Wharton.

"Revolving Portrait" was commissioned by Triple Canopy as part of its Internet as Material project area, supported in part by the Foundation for Contemporary Arts and the Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston.

FROM SURVEILLANCE-CAMERA RECOGNITION software to mobile apps such as Google Goggles, new and increasingly sophisticated content-based image-retrieval (CBIR) tools are narrowing the difference between the abilities of people and complex systems to describe the subject of a photograph. CBIR compares images and finds relationships between them in order to deliver search results, largely avoiding the garbage returned by searches reliant on keywords or metadata. (Such tools are now used to catalogue X-ray images and photographic archives, recognize facial features for the prevention of crime, and market online retail products.) The effect is to push us closer to a dependence on automated methods of seeking out and encountering images (and texts), where one’s agency is limited to determining the search terms.

Artist Daniel Gordon explores the generative possibilities of this discrepancy between a fixed image and an image in a state of relational flux. He harnesses the deluge of JPEGs and GIFs that ensue from this automated process as a supplement to what he calls the “outer-net” of his studio, with its array of product shots, pictures of human appendages, and textural clippings gleaned from the Internet. Gordon begins the creation of each of his artworks by conducting a number of search queries—“Air Jordan,” “side of foot,” “tortoise shell,” etc.—and then prints, cuts, and assembles the results into grotesque figures, quotidian still lifes, and other conventional pictorial forms. He then photographs these sculptures, which, however seemingly resolved, maintain a palpable tension within their flattened space.

“Revolving Portrait” is a study of unstable portraiture, an improvisatory tool with which to manipulate a work formed from Google-sourced imagery and Gordon’s own compositions. Readers can manually turn on and off certain search terms (derived from titles of existing works by Gordon), employing the resulting images to devise new forms patched together atop a single canvas. In doing so they take on the task of resolving—or unsettling—the composition, if only temporarily.

Peter J. Russo

Click below to launch “Revolving Portrait.” Check on or off any combination of terms to activate a search and display its related portrait. Roll over the canvas to cycle through all activated portraits, and then click a shard to fix it in place (click again to continue rotating), or use the pause button to stop all images in place.