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MeeTo

MeeTo

by Hallur Þór Halldórsson last modified Oct 04, 2013 12:01 PM
In Netfilmmakers' upcoming exhibition, BUGS, artist Mogens Jacobsen will once again dazzle us with his talent and wit, this time through the presentation of the photographic application MeeTo. In this two-part article I intend to introduce the artist and his works, and in this latter part I will focus on the application and its historical context.
Posted by Hallur Þór Halldórsson at Oct 04, 2013 11:55 AM | | Add comment
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For the past decade or so, Mogens has increasingly moved away from, or even beyond, the premises of the screen, to the extent that MeeTo marks his return to screen-based art. Yet the iPad, in all its glory, must not be mistaken for what the screen represented in the early days of video or computer art. It stands not as a mere frame preserving or displaying a work of art. The handheld attributes of the tablet computer, as well as the multi-media capabilities of the "smart" communication devices (i.e. the inclusion of a camera on both sides of the device, with both single shot and video capabilities), have made it a more flexible mode of reviewing, presenting and creating art, and by moving it around the content of the work changes. This can truly be said in the case of Kassandra Wellendorf and Daniel Skaale's augmented reality work, CREEPS, where the device becomes the very aspect of the artwork that makes it visible, but with Mogens's work, it is the very essence of the work. The final output of each picture, is dependent on the flexibility of the instrument, and the work itself is nothing, literally, if not for the input of the audience.

The artist has stated that the application is his attempt to identify with or relate to kids and teenagers by way of a common interest – which he concluded to be photography. Perhaps Mogens's aesthetic ideas might be askew from what contemporary youth finds interesting when it comes to photography, but to countervail that, he has chosen a particular type of photography popular amongst young people, notably self portraiture, or more precisely, an amateur branch of the tradition commonly known today as selfies.

The MeeTo application is a photo app, which shoots only one half of a photo. The other half is selected from a database of previously obtained images (taken by other users of the application and stored for later use) to create a whole out of two halves. Mogens himself has cited the board game Mixmax as source of inspiration, a pop cultural update on the surrealist pastime Picture consequence, otherwise known as Exquisite corpse or Le cadavre exquis. Originating from a language game of the latter name, Picture consequence features a piece of paper folded in three or four parts, horizontally, where each participant then draws a part of a body, a head, a torso, legs and sometimes feet separately, without having seen the other participants' contributions. MeeTo draws inspiration from the parlor game, although it provides the user with the opportunity to see both halves, their own creation as well as the other half of the combination, alluding to Mogens' experimental roots and and spiritual relation to Dada and Surrealism.


BUGS_Mogens_MeeTo_demopicThe artist has stated that the application is his attempt to identify with or relate to kids and teenagers by way of a common interest – which he concluded to be photography. Perhaps Mogens's aesthetic ideas might be askew from what contemporary youth finds interesting when it comes to photography, but to countervail that, he has chosen a particular type of photography popular amongst young people, notably self portraiture, or more precisely, an amateur branch of the tradition commonly known today as selfies.
Although the term was first coined in 2005, the tradition of selfie-like self-portraiture with a compact camera is relatively established, tracing back to the invention of the Kodak Brownie (as one of the first mass-produced, properly marketed, compact cameras), although the spurt of quick and compact cameras in the nineteen sixties and seventies, and then the arrival of the digital camera at the end of the twentieth century (with the option of deleting unwanted photographs and thus obliterating the rather conscious finiteness of film cameras), have had a serious impact on the reputation and status of the act while at the same time pushing it forward, leading to an inevitable conceptualization and coinage of a term. As photographic self-portraiture is simply the act of shooting a picture of one self, the selfie tradition is usually associated with a specific type of self portraiture, where the subject most commonly holds the camera her- or himself, either turning the camera to face oneself (not being able to properly adjust the composure and composition of either the picture frame nor the subject itself) or facing a mirror reflecting the subject, and inevitably, including the camera apparatus itself. This is a form of expression for the first generation to grow up, to enter adolescence, on social media sites; this is the profile photo. My personal favorite when it comes to historical "selfies", is a self portrait of grand-duchess Anastasia Romanova holding a camera in front of a mirror, featured on the "selfies"wikipedia page, but contemporary self-portraits are more (self)consciously thought out in terms of the interplay between posture and photographic composition, and are often considered to be methods of manipulating the perception of others, of the profiled individual, in order to build or construct the identity, or self.
Whether or not the audience agrees with the idea of the selfie as a conscious method to reconstruct the self of an individual, the application certainly brings new things to the debate, by putting it in a collective perspective. The inclusion of a second half, which is not the user/audiences own, it compels the originator of the picture to become aware of "the other", thus compelling a social dimension the portrayal of identity or self.

Most of what Mogens has enticed us with during his career derives from a very playful attitude towards the arts, an attitude that was most notably established by the Dada of the early 20th century, but became a significant aspect of Modernist art (and later its Postmodern counterpart). The appropriation of both items and imagery for reapplication in a more artistic context, is a activity that became almost standard practice in the 20th century, and is frequently employed in contemporary art. Mogens is certainly no exception to that (perhaps an inevitable fate of an artist working with a digital medium in an era of excessive aesthetic output and gross overproduction of ideas). It is, therefore, highly appropriate that his piece for the BUGS exhibition references the Dada movement, or more specifically, the Surrealists, to such a great extent as is the case.



Further reading:
Wikipedia: Selfie
Wikipedia: Exquisite Corpse
Marginal Utility Annex: Selfies are Not Self-Expression
John Rendell Photography: About Exquisite Corpse

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