The chic-o-mat is a system that takes a playful approach to investigating identity, difference and its representation. It enables users to virtually modify their appearance, age and gender. This is accomplished with the help of automatically created images compiled from the user’s own portrait and the portrait of another person. Players become, in a personal, interactive way, researchers into their own representation.
The user produces a portrait of himself/herself with the integrated camera. This picture is then combined with the portrait of a second person or with a portrait from the pool of chic-o-mat images. Once both pictures are displayed on screen, the automatic assembly process begins and the first virtual portrait appears.
It's almost like looking in the mirror—one has an up-close-and-personal encounter with a face that is indeed familiar but nevertheless strange. Julia Kristeva formulated the experience of difference with reference to Freud’s theory of the uncanny as an inter-subjective construction in the following terms: “The other, that is my own unconscious (my unconscious self).” The recognition that what is strange is within us impresses on us the concept of difference as a precondition for coexistence with others.
Translated from German by Mel Greenwald
Pilot project developed in conjunction with the “Gay Chic—von der Subkultur zum Mainstream” exhibition at the Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich, 2006; curator: Cynthia Gavranic.
Among the programs used in chic-o-mat are: Processing, ImageMagick,MPT, Java, C++, Perl, AutoHotkey, Samba, Linux Thanks to all our friends and acquaintances as well as Kate and Juerg’s children, who spontaneously agreed to pose for the portraits.