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The Unveiling of The Digital Flesh

When The Creators Project was launched this past June, creators Radical Friend (Kirby McClure and Julia Grigorian) conceived of an enduring “organism” to commemorate the birth. This organism is an ever-evolving amorphous figure composed of thousands of 3D facial scans collected from all over the globe at our launch parties in NYC, London, Sao Paulo, Seoul and Beijing. Attendees in each city would add to the organism’s DNA by submitting a facial scan, and between events the organism would incubate and grow in its online “womb.” The installation culminated in a birthing séance in Beijing this past September, at which point a composite “supreme being” was welcomed into the world.

The interactive installation The Digital Flesh is part you and us and everyone we know, inspired by the reality that technology and humans will continue to co-exist in our increasingly digital world. Radical Friend, who are famous for creating music videos that transpose universes, are no strangers to the melding of virtual and physical environments. The The Digital Flesh likewise seems to transpose the virtual and the physical, not to mention the likenesses of thousands of participants.

Radical Friend’s vision was a grand one, and they had a lot of help from some very talented collaborators in bringing their “supreme being” to life. The Science Project was enlisted to help the artist duo figure out how their vision would be executed and to find the technical solutions and technical partners to do so. They were also responsible for conceptualizing and building the website, with additional development from production company Paranoid US (of which Radical Friend is represented as directors). YesYesNo was call upon to help build the open source software for the project (see Broken Social Scene’s implementation here). According to Grigorian, the technology utilized in this project, a 3D scan system with motion, had seldom been appropriated outside of a laboratory before. Technology and design shop, Partly Human Inc.; experience design studio, Apologue; multi-sensory experts, Edwards Technologies; compelling storytellers, Proof, Inc.; installation fabricators, Lexington Design & Fabrication; and the visual eye of Peter Klein also contributed to the realization of the project.

In order to document the being’s creation and give it life long after the performance had ended, a virtual world was built to house it. Interacting with The Digital Flesh online is quite stunning. You can zoom in and out on the being to view individual faces, rotate the figure 360 degrees, and scroll along the timeline to track its process of evolution. All the while, different faces squelch out of the polycephal head — some smiling, some quizzical, others completely devoid of emotion. Different colors categorize the distinctive regions, and each city has a distinct soundtrack with musical accompaniment from Growing, Chris Keating of Yeasayer, Zilch, Brian Degraw of Gang Gang Dance, and Gatekeeper.

It’s fitting that a project like The Digital Flesh should commemorate the birth of The Creators Project. This installation is emblematic of what The Creators Project is all about—a diverse group of visionary artists joining together to create an experimental, forward-thinking installation that, while it makes use of cutting edge technology, is at its core an exploration of the common humanity that unites all of us.

Check out the video and slideshow above.