Links to Zhang Ga's new media art done in November, 2004. People's Portrait
New York, United States
Chinese new media artist, Zhang Ga, makes a statement about the human face and our technology today in his public media installation People’s Potrait in November 2004. A part of the Dutch Electronic Art Festival, the People’s Portrait exhibition featured a large on-screen (billboard) portrayal of different shots of people’s “everyday” faces from five different major cities around the world—Rotterdam, New York, Singapore, Linz (Austria) and Brisbane. Disrupting the nature of time and space, Ga creates a physical symbol of the instantaneous nature our technological world has become. The global borders suddenly do not hold any value and significance with the internet, therefore the artistic world continues to cross borders and cultures.
Ga is also the director of Netart Initiative, which is an open based internet forum for new media and artists to communicate their artwork as well as interact with many other global new media artists. Ga received his art education in China and then went to Berlin and now holds an MFA from the Parsons School of Design in the United States. Also, he teaches at Parsons and visits many other universities and schools to talk about his art. As we have seen before, the internet art bases that serve as public melting pots for archives of new media art work is not anything new today which adds to the growing amount of information being shared via the internet; Ga’s Netart Initiative is another part of this growing amount of readily available information.
In order to create this installation, Ga set up different “kiosks” where anyone and everyone could come up to the camera and take a picture of themselves in these different cities. People could see their portrait displayed on an electronic billboard amongst the portraits of others who were participating in this activity. The portraits were then transmitted through the internet and shuffled amongst many other portraits being taken at the same time from around the different cities. Portrayed in large city squares, such as Times Square in New York, there is nothing private about this visualization. The immediacy of the portraits removes the issue of attention to time and distance and creates a sense of contemporaneity. Anyone viewing the portraits, as well as taking the portraits, can see and interact with others at the present time despite the distances and the times of the day.
The desire to connect, and connect with speed and accuracy, is defined in the functions of the internet—people can instantly connect with others despite time and distance. New media art is a part of this culture and brings art to the forefront of these inventions. Through technology, especially the internet, the physical boundaries and barriers between nations, countries and cultures is completely removed. Ga’s piece speaks into this dramatic change and takes a perspective that makes human faces personal, because of the physical portrayals of faces broadcasted in large public squares. Also, Ga’s piece touches on the equality experienced through the use of the internet—anyone and everyone can be a part of conversations, as well as add to conversation. The experience of the internet is communal and distant in a sense. Ga’s piece plays upon this true paradox concerning immediate connectivity. Because Ga puts a face on this truth about contemporary culture, it makes human relationships much more real and more relatable, rather than just hyperlinks and mathematical constructs visualized on a screen. But, the images essence are color pixels configured in electronic waves and configurations, so does this fact reduce the true personalization of this piece? The concerns and advantages of the internet and global connectivity come into question.