Art in the Digital Age: Text Portraits


Ralph Ueltzhoeffer, Anonymity (2009)

Text Portraits is an evolving internet art project by Ralph Ueltzhoeffer and Laura Maria May that explores the ways in which information on the web can be used as art. Early text portraits were exhibited on “location-dependent” billboards. As the project expanded, roughly parallel to the growth of Google, Ueltzhoeffer and May realized greater possibilities for the medium, as well as the cultural implications underpinning their work.

Ralph Ueltzhoeffer and Laura Maria May, Missing (2008)

The information is gathered to create “readable” portraits and exhibited as installations. A current work, Identity, however, was created for the web itself.

Ralph Ueltzhoeffer, Identity (2009)

When you run your cursor over the image, it reveals the text that makes up the image. For example, the text comprising Identity is:

Ralph Ueltzhoeffer, Identity (2009)

Identity makes a statement about the dangers of widespread, freely-available personal data in the digital age.

Ralph Ueltzhoeffer, Event and situation (2009)

Ueltzhoeffer continues to take this project in many new directions, and with the rapidly changing landscape of technology, it seems he will have plenty of signifiers to work with. Here are some of the issues that the Text Portraits project has raised:

The likelihood of faulty information over the internet.

How virtual interaction has replaced face-to-face interaction.

Can the internet itself become art by representing itself?

Abuse of personal data.

In sum, Text Portraits is a radical art project that challenges the notions our society is currently being built on. Everything from the invasive technologies of Facebook to the blurring of online and offline life, demonstrates the need for this project to continue.

Visit the Text Portraits website