selfportrait, 1992, interactive installation, dimensions variable
“A room-sized interactive installation, Self Portrait presents us with a metaphorical body—one that is at the same time a transparent isolation bubble and an egg/womb. The viewer/participant is invited to sit in a chair at some distance from the 9-foot diameter, metal-ribbed, clear bubble suspended from the ceiling, and to place a hand on the pad of a pulse oximeter sensor. As the sensor picks up the viewer’s pulse, it interfaces with an audio device which amplifies the pulse into a room-filling, rhythmic heartbeat. The sensor pad also activated a pumping system, synchronized with the audio heartbeat, that circulates a deep-red fluid through a network of plastic tubing on the outside of the bubble’s membrane. A video camera mounted before the chair records the viewer’s face and plays it back on the top monitor of a stack of four, which are suspended within a chain-link fence enclosure that hangs in the middle of the bubble. The four monitors present a composite human body to the viewer; it incorporates the head and shoulders, the torso, the pelvis and thighs, and the legs and feet. The viewer’s head remains constant in the top monitor, which the other three monitors change independently of each other every five seconds. They show the designated body section from some 35 to 40 people of differing genders, races, and ages, clothed and unclothed, in a seemingly infinite composite of human possibilities. The viewer thus becomes both a visual and visceral participant in the work through the artist’s sleight-of-hand as one set of appearances replaces another, and self becomes the other.
LoCurto and Outcault present us with a richly complex understanding and experience of our social relationships and the realities of the AIDS pandemic. The chance character of our engagements is illuminated in the simultaneity of Self Portrait’s contradictory equilibrium between life and death, isolation and community, self and the other. For death is the unseen visitor, the unspoken work in the hushed dialogue with the self.”
Bruce Guenther, Chief Curator, Newport Harbor Art Museum, 1993