Multimedia artist Margot Bowman has reimagined the selfie in artwork commissioned by MINI, as part of the BMW Group’s centenary year. Data Portraits is a series of four unique gifs, developed in partnership with post production collective Raised by Wolves, depicting two sets of identical twins. Using biometric data alone each set of twins would be practically indistinguishable but the portraits of each are radically different. Bowman’s artwork therefore highlights the preferences and experiences of each as an individual.
“Technology doesn’t understand us, and we don’t understand technology despite the fact that it is a constant presence in our lives,” says Margot. “I saw Data Portraits as an experiment in humanising technology, an opportunity to ask what would happen if technology understood empathy.” The work asks questions about the data that is recorded in an official capacity, such as the quantifiable and tangible data that appears on passports and of data that is recorded in a less tangible fashion on sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
MINI approached Margot with a brief to question how data-driven personalisation might develop as it prepares to unveil its Vision Vehicle at a future gazing exhibition at the Roundhouse in London this month. Margot was struck that, although mass produced cars were customisable to a certain extent, the options remained limited to data driven parameters such as human gait, with concessions made to colour and entertainment. She set out to explore how a true portrait of an individual might be possible.
“It’s a play on the traditional portrait set up. The portraits will be overlaid to show what is on the inside, as well as what can be physically read. The decision to use twins came from the fact that when you see someone, and simply read them using visual data, the individual is easily misread,” says Margot. As such, the physical presence of each twin is a constant, a benchmark of sorts, which is then overlaid with the answers to a set of 14 questions such as: how do you deal with shame? How many people do you say I love you to? Where in your body do you hold your identity? “Today, only the best artists and photographers are heralded with being able to show their subjects personality in their work but imagine advanced technology in the hands of artists!” says Margot.