Born Nowhere & Born Now Here
“Born Nowhere and Born Now Here” are part of Laís Pontes’s socio-psychological investigation into the ways in which social media influences the construction of the contemporary identity. These two social media art projects use Facebook and other social media platforms for crowd-sourcing identities. In the first project “Born Nowhere”, Pontes created a series of self-portraits and modified them using digital technology to transform her own facial characteristics into a diverse cast of female personalities. She posted each of the digitally manipulated photographs on Facebook and then invited its users to share their thoughts, comments and interpretations of the characters’ portraits, based solely on the character’s image. This dialogue is a flexible interaction that allowed for an unbounded sociocultural experience. By aggregating comments from Facebook users, the artist constructed a bio for each character and posted this on Facebook, too. In this way, the users’ comments informed and helped generate a unique persona for each character—with its own name, psychological characteristics, life history and memory. The description of each new character was influenced by what psychoanalysts term “projection,” that is, the viewer ascribes background, reality and fantasies onto others. In the second project “Born Now Here”, Pontes deepens her socio-psychological investigation. The artist revisited the Born Nowhere characters transforming the characters’ crowd-sourced Facebook identities into real activities, relationships, and behaviours, thus creating an ongoing performance piece in her everyday life. In addition to their personal Facebook accounts, characters were each ascribed particular objects to reflect their individual personalities such as clothing, make up, journals and photographs. Pontes’ performance of the characters blended elements of their virtual biographies with the personal and physical realities of her own existence. This fusion of self with other inspired Pontes to extend the practice further and hand over the virtual characters to others. She gave the participants freedom to develop the characters’ identities as they desired. The participants created another version of her original digital personality during the artistic process, one based on their own experiences. Their involvement with the virtual characters was highly personal; it became a conversation with the self, wherein each participant embodied his or her own questions, anxieties, fears, and dreams. The virtual characters undergone a continuous transformation throughout this process. And the participants who embody the characters evolved as well. The experience of living vicariously through someone else gave the participants a better understanding of their own self and that of others. The participants confronted the inner world of the other, including differences in race, sexuality, gender, class, and career. Eventually, characters were either returned to Pontes or given to a new party. In allowing participants full control over the virtual characters, the artist experienced a shift in her role as creator, becoming a spectator of her own artwork.
Pontes’ work has been exhibited worldwide and featured at the International Center of Photography in NYC (2015), Rencontres Internationales de La Photographie in Canada (2015), Brandts Museum in Denmark (2015), FotoFest Biennal in Houston (2014), 6th Arte Laguna Prize in Italy (2012), Paraty em Foco 7th International Photo Festival in Brazil (2011), and the Filter Photo Festival in Chicago (2011). Her work has been published in well-known magazines and blogs in South Korea, Spain, Italy, the United States, Brazil, and Mexico. These publications include El País, The Creators Project, Lenscratch, Itsliquid, PDN Pulse and OjodePez. Pontes’ artwork is currently on display in both private and public museum collections.