Narcissism Enterprise

An interactive portrait installation (1997) by Nicolas Anatol Baginsky.

Narcissism Enterprise

Narcissism Enterprise; photo: Jan Sprij

Narcissism Enterprise deals with the portrait of the visitor and his narcissistic love for his self-image. The face of the visitor is recorded by a small video camera which, supported by a small robot arm, follows the movements of the head. The sounds the visitor makes are picked up by a microphone. Sounds and images are processed by a self-learning computer system which generates image and sound/music sequences which are replayed via a video projection and loudspeakers.

The optical part of the system is developed from the special optical sense of Baginsky's earlier sculpture, Elizabeth Gardner (Hamburger Kunsthalle). This sub-system finds, extracts and recombines facial features (eyes, noses, mouths) from the incoming video images. It is a special feature of this image processing system that it stores an internal representation of the significant optical stimulations in the synaptic connections of the neural networks. The representations combine characteristics of a sub-group of faces seen by the system. Thus, composite images are created that unite in a new face the significant features of all those, for instance, with dark hair and a moustache. The classification of such 'significant features' is not predetermined but are created by the system itself on the based of the perceived data.

Narcissism Enterprise is a system with artificial intelligence. In a certain way it does the work of an imaginary portrait painter by offering fodder to the human narcissism in the form of two dimensional images. The system decides which images it will return to the visitors as their desired optical and acoustic mirror images. It reflects selected aspects of the optical and acoustic appearance back on the visitor. It does this in a sensuous and playful way.


Josephine Bosma: The Human and the Machine: Interview with Nick Baginsky

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