Sticky Anonymity

lift off lift off

Lift Off

Sticky Anonymity was first exhibited at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art from May 31 through June 11, 2006. The work was part of Lift Off, the Second Annual San Jose State University Master of Fine Arts Graduate Exhibition. Lift Off was curated by Fanny Retsek.

As an interesting side note, Sticky Anonymity was used as an actual surveillance tool when one of the sculptural pieces in the show somehow became broken.

Sticky Anonymity is an interactive digital video installation designed monitor viewers while allowing them to sensor themselves. My intention is political as well as playful. The play aspect draws people into the piece, getting them to perform for it. Much of the art is in the performances created by the people viewing the art.

This is the last piece to date of mine that falls into a loosely related body of work centering around themes of surveillance and audience as performer. We often pay no mind to the fact that more and more we live in a society of surveillance. In making art which reflects this, I hope to draw some awareness to the fact that our right to privacy is being slowly etched away.

This work is in one sense a reaction to colleges and professors who feel more uneasy about their image being monitored by art mocking society then society itself. The visual inspiration is obviously today's mass media which can have 12 cameras on a suspect and is still nice enough to respect their privacy by putting the well recognized bubble of pixilation over their face. Now in this work, finally anyone who wants to remain anonymous can by their own means do so.

A (oftentimes additional) surveillance camera is set up to monitor gallery patrons. Near by it, a large monitor screen displays the camera's live feed. All anyone has to do to remain unknown is place an interactive pixilated censorship bubble over his or her own face. It works great for censoring other things as well. If you have a chance to experience the piece, feel free to experiment. Of course during the process of attempting to censor ones own identity, ones identity may be revealed, but those are the breaks.


Sticky Anonymity was constructed in a software environment called Max/MSP with an additional component for image matrix processing known as Jitter. A live camera feed is digitized both at a normal resolution and at an extremely low resolution. The two video matrices are layered with the low-res version in back. A circular image mask is made that works as a "hole" in the top video layer, showing the pixilated layer beneath it. That mask is programmed to move about based on the pixel tones of the video, "pixel sniffing." It tries to stay associated with like pixels.  Thus on screen it seems to "stick" to objects. If the mask is dragged of the screen, it is programmed to reset to the screen's center.


The Art of Teaching

In 2008 Sticky Anonymity was exhibited in the Main Gallery at the Art Institute of California - San Francisco.

The work was part of Art of Teaching, The Art Institute's annual faculty show which Jan 28 March 6th, 2008. Sticky Anonymity stood out as the only interactive piece in the show. The Art of Teaching was curated by Gigi Gallinger.

art of teaching art of teaching

John Bruneau 2023