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Narcissism As Art

December 23, 2010

photo.jpgThe San Francisco Art Commission's current playful outdoor art installation in the mid-Market area of downtown San Francisco demonstrates just how much people like to "publish" themselves. Faces, an interactive artwork by Theodore Watson projects enormous photographed portraits of passersby from The Warfield Theatre building (Market Street at Golden Gate/Taylor) onto a wall overlooking Market Street at 6th Street. Passersby stand in front of a "capture station" embedded in a wall at the Warfield, the image is snapped and seconds later it's "thrown" across the street to the top of another wall where it is visible to anyone walking away from the downtown area on Market Street.

The installation will be active for the next few months after nightfall (the hours are currently from 6.30pm-11pm). When I arrived on the scene at 6.30pm a couple of nights ago, people seemed completely transfixed by the installation. "I'm famous!" was the common cry as people saw their faces plastered on the wall across the street. Others who didn't stop to have their picture taken but noticed the changing images on the building, looked around to see where the source was and said things like, "wow, you're famous!"

Faces makes for a fun holiday / nighttime gimmick and brightens up a particularly drab section of Market Street that can definitely use more foot traffic and interesting eye candy. I also think that the big distance separating the individual standing infront of the Warfield having his or her picture taken and his or her larger-than-life projected image across the street speaks to the gulf separating a real experience from a mediated one. We might delight in seeing our projected faces, but within seconds the image is gone and reality smothers the narcissistic impulse associated with our "30 seconds of fame."

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