School of Art, Media, and Technology

Thesis Showcase: Brian Putz Combines Play, Culture Jamming, and Art

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In this series, second-year D&T MFA students explain what they are doing with their thesis projects, where they apply what they’ve been learning toward their personal interests. Below,  Brian Putz shares his vision of an art installation that plays with ideas about celebrity-worship and identity. By Rachel Signer.

What’s the main idea of your project?

My project is an art installation where users will place their face in a device and see a representation of themselves with someone else—a famous person—while in a different location in the same general area, people will see that person’s normal image, and at the same time it will be stored on a website. It explores our desire to have celebrity status while also not wanting to deal with its repercussions, and looks at how Internet culture goes into the mainstream. It’s meant to be a large-scale public art installation. The goal is to re-purpose identities. Right now I’m working on the structure of the device itself and the code. Getting it built out over the next two months will be interesting. So far I’ve been focused on building the code.

How have you funded it?

There’s been zero funding. I developed the prototype using Open Source software for the face-mapping. With a project like this, it’s difficult to get funding. There’s a small cost in some of the materials, but otherwise little funding is required.

Does your project have a business model or plan for moving forward?

In the next year, I plan on submitting it to Ars Electronica, a digital arts festival, to get it out there and have people play with it, and have it installed in cool locations throughout NYC—large, heavy-traffic centers.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your project?

Narrowing down what I was trying to do over the course of the year. For the first six months I was just trying random things, but then in the last two months my thesis advisor told me to step back, and think about what I wanted to say and do. When I did that, I came back to what I had wanted to do in the beginning of the year, but I was told not to do that. But then I saw that I was still passionate about it, so I picked it back up again. I was basically interested in installations that create weird experiences for people. My work is meant to be playful and humorous, but for a while I thought I needed to make it more serious—but then I went back to my playful idea.

What surprised you while you were working on it?

How well it was received once the idea was developed.

How has this program been supportive to your project?

Everyone’s always so interested in what other people are doing, so having that mindset where everyone wants everyone to succeed, is very helpful. Working with the right faculty is really crucial—having someone that’s aligned with your interests.

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