I•AM•I woven data portrait


The whole is more than the surface of the parts, Aristotle

Self-quantification has become more and more ubiquitous in our culture, reflecting an increasing trend to visualize one’s activities aggregated, quantified and reflected in a mirror of metrics and personal technology. This growing preoccupation captured our imaginations - what kind of portrait could we create given one’s personal data; is a portrait of measure a 21st century artistic innovation?

Nora Ligorano through fiber optic mesh

Nora Ligorano through fiber optic mesh

IAMI is our answer - a full body “portrait” inspired by Durer’s portraits of Adam and Eve, Gertrude Stein’s Identity: A Play and the Quantified Self. We are making information our pallet: portraying an individual by aggregating their physical activities and psychological states as a method for generating their visual representation.

Woven portraiture is an offshoot of the tapestry tradition. In style these portraits relate to the tapestry cartoons during the 1700’s, many of which were full body figures. The one that stands out to us is the woven silk portrait of Joseph Marie Jacquard, the inventor of the Jacquard loom, which the mathematician and inventor of the mechanical computer Charles Babbage owned. In December 2013, we introduced IAMI with Catharine Clark Gallery at Miami Project during Miami Basel.

IAMI on display at Catharine Clark Gallery

IAMI on display at Catharine Clark Gallery

IAMI is a constantly changing, woven data portrait. It displays an abstract representation of the sitter’s activities and responses to a self-reporting emotional survey. These activities are collected and generated by the FitBit, an activity tracker.

IAMI displays 5000 steps from Saturday

IAMI displays 5000 steps from Saturday

Three times per day, IAMI contacts the “sitter” of the portrait by SMS or email to find out how they’re feeling. It asks 11 questions about how they feel, which the sitter inputs using a mobile device. These responses are displayed as changing color fields.

IAMI Emotional survey

Answering IAMI's Emotional survey

There are three modes IAMI’s sitter chooses to display, ARTIST PORTRAIT (portrait of the artist, our recorded activities), SKETCH MODE realtime collection of the subject’s activities and emotions, and the MY PORTRAIT.

In sketch mode, the tapestry displays for a given period of time (user defined) which we call the sitting session.

  • the day of the week - we’ve chosen a color for each day from Thai/Khmer culture;
  • the subject’s number of steps;
  • their distance walked and activity score;
  • and weight gain or loss.

When the sketch session is committed, after 2 - 4 weeks, IAMI displays the final portrait.

IAMI displaying emotional afternoon emotional response

IAMI displaying emotional afternoon emotional response

Coloration is drawn from Thai/Khmer colors of the day and Plutchik’s wheel of emotions so that viewers can read the day, the type of activities and the scale of emotions on the piece’s woven surface. The portrait is structured in weekly cycles of 7 days and daily progressions of 11 emotions.

At midnight the panel’s entire surface becomes a breathing color field, first resting then going to sleep at 1AM, waking up at 6 the next morning.

IAMI is the second of five planned fiber optic tapestries each displaying different datasets. Software designed by Luke Loeffler in collaboration with LigoranoReese; Hardware designed by Levy Lorenzo and Eric Singer; Consultation and weaving by C T D Studio.