Margot Bowman rethinks the selfie and the future of personalisation

Date
31 May 2016
Reading Time
3 minute read

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 an 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 using future sensitive technology.

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Margot Bowman: Blue Twin

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Margot Bowman: Red twin

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Margot Bowman: Red twin

“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 19 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?

Although the works are an imagining of what technology might be able to reveal in the future, for Margot it is an opportunity to speculate on how new forms of data might influence personalisation in the future. It also examines how the ideas of artists could influence the way which the people coding new programmes and technology might think creatively about what they do. “I work with some amazing people who are coding incredible things for specific purposes. They harness the power of numbers as an objective unit of information,” says the artist. “But for me decoration and beauty are non-negotiable.” Her portraits overlay abstract and figurative images onto the traditional portrait, creating a unique and highly specific artwork for each subject.

The trajectory of technology is increasing exponentially and Margot’s work is delivered with an aesthetic and process that hints at a more rounded view of what personalisation might be, one that sees beauty in subtlety and complexity beyond numbers.

The BMW Group Future Experience Exhibition showcasing MINI’s vision of the NEXT 100 years will take place at the Roundhouse, London, from the 18th to the 26th of June. If you want to win two VIP tickets to MINI’s invite only event on June 20th, enter your details here. 

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Margot Bowman: Blue Twin

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Margot Bowman: development sketches

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Margot Bowman: development sketches

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Margot Bowman: development sketches

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Margot Bowman: Work in progress

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Margot Bowman

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Margot Bowman: Red Twin/Blue Twin

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Margot Bowman: Purple Twin/Blue Twin

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Margot Bowman: Purple Twin/Blue Twin

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