“The images in The Portrait Machine Project function as robust examples of the way photographs represent not only visual moments, but also the complex and ongoing relationship between artist, camera and subject always at play in portraiture. Created using a Polaroid aura camera developed in the 1970s, Van de Roer’s photographs of friends and personalities of public note—including artists Miranda July, Aurel Schmidt and Terence Koh, as well as author James Frey—draw on traditions of portraiture and spirit photography as they examine classic photographic interests. Designed to capture a subject’s aura in the same manner as a psychic might perceive it, the camera translates biofeedback into near-fluorescent colors that engulf the subject in the resulting Polaroid, as well as a computerized print-out analysis which interprets the subject’s potential, present emotional state and future possibilities.
The Portrait Machine Project explores the scientific authority of photographs by parodying the indexical, objective nature of other biological imaging systems such as x-rays. The artist mines the (in)ability of photographs to represent the real and the reassertion of analog photographic processes in the post-digital age. This objectivity problematizes our common understanding of the artist-model relationship by undermining expectations of artistic authority and control. The mechanical nature of the aura camera removes a measure of artistic manipulation and suggests that the camera itself offers its own interpretations, independent of the artist’s or subject’s expectations. As the artist himself puts it, “The tension between the subject and the camera’s interpretation of them is interesting. I am including subjects whose personalities or jobs deal with identity.” By including well-known personalities, Van de Roer asks what it is a viewer wants from a portrait, particularly a portrait of someone they think they know. Ultimately, The Portrait Machine Project functions as an exploration of the possible truthfulness of images and to portraiture’s ability to in some sense accurately represent the character of the sitter.”
612 North Almont Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90069
April 16 – May 14, 2011
Opening Reception: Saturday, April 16, 6-8pm