On Selfiness

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On Selfiness is a sculptural self-portrait of artist and Carnegie Mellon MFA student Jonathan Armistead, created with a combination of low-cost depth sensing and digital fabrication tools. Using body-scanning software developed by Bespoke Innovations and Andrew Zukoski which integrates data from up to twelve Kinect scanners simultaneously, Armistead captured instantaneous, comprehensive 3D snapshots of himself in various poses.

Once the poses were captured, Armistead imported the data into Autodesk’s 123DMake and sliced the model up into hundreds of pieces. He then cut these slices from corrugated cardboard using the STUDIO’s Lasersaur, a low-cost, open-source laser cutter. A photoset of high-resolution documentation of the project can be found here.

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“Of all the poses,” Armistead stated, “I like the selfie the best. In a selfie, we present ourselves to others from a single perspective that, we believe, we wholly control. It makes us appear confident, or it at least conveys a moment of confidence. If we are viewed in the round when doing so, however, our pretense becomes visible: extending our arms as much as possible, tilting and contorting our bodies, we see that our head and shoulders are actually postured for the benefit of some imaginary onlooker’s gaze, for which a mobile phone is an awkwardly embraced proxy. While being completely ridiculous, I find the pose to be strangely reminiscent of classical sculpture. I am never sure myself as to how I feel about selfies: Are they something to be made fun of, or are they something worth celebrating?”

On Selfiness was supported by a microgrant from the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier (FRFAF)— an endowment founded to encourage the creation of innovative artworks by the faculty, students and staff of Carnegie Mellon University. With this fund, the STUDIO seeks to develop a cache of groundbreaking projects created at CMU — works that can be described as “thinking at the edges” of the intersection of disciplines.

Jonathan Armistead is a graduate of the CMU School of Art’s MFA program.

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