#FaceValue in a Gallery: Artist Statement

Today #FaceValue went up in the gallery. I am very happy with how it turned out. I think it met and exceeded my expectations. Below are some photos (still to come) and my artist statement for the piece.


#FaceValue by Emily Ward

An Instagram account not following everyone, with no previous photos, and no followers uploads an image. Who likes it?

We use social media to construct and project our identity. But that persona is warped by the shareability of images, statuses and experiences. A photo is chosen for aesthetics, rather than for representing the experience. We give power to strangers, people who can only take us at face value.

I uploaded 40 images of myself to an Instagram account. All were posted in the same timeframe, with the same tags to ensure the same people saw them. Some meant a lot and some meant nothing, some I liked and some I didn’t, some are how I see myself and some looked nothing like me. #FaceValue is the physical representation of the likes they got in their first 24hours online.

How I value those images is very different to their number of Instagram likes.

Printed on paper in standard ink. Selfies are meant to be ephemeral.
But immortalised as art. Identity is meant to be important.

#art #behappy #instagood #smile #eyes #instabeauty #bbloggerau #makeupaddict #lipstickjunkie #lashes #curlyhairdontcare #selfie #selfienation #facevalue


What to read more about the journey of #FaceValue?

The inspiration and other artworks: Ideas are Forming: Media Art Project
The pitch:Medium, Images and Tags: Meet #FaceValue
The social and artistic contexts: #FaceValue and a sense of selfie.

Or see the whole feed of blogs and updates at: www.emilyjward.wordpress.com/category/facevalue


#FaceValue and a sense of selfie.

Instagram was created for the sharing of photos. Hashtags were introduced to help find content.  Likes showed appreciation for the post.

However, now we share images and use hashtags with the intention of gaining more likes. It is interesting that we put that much value on the opinion of strangers when constructing a sense of self. People who see your image online when searching through a tag don’t know you. And yet you value their “liking” your image. You question why some get less likes. You wonder why people didn’t like that one. Do you delete it?

Pamela Rutledge wrote an article for Psychology Today that say “selfies communicate a transitory message at a single moment in time.   We are more concerned with “what’s going on” than the projection of identity.” However it is undeniable that the images that we chose to share online does project a type of identity. And people need to be aware of what identity they are portraying and the potential implications of that portrayed self.

But the people liking your image can only take you at face value, they only know and see that one image, at most the profile of images you have created. So why do they have the power in changing how we chose to construct our online identities?

NRP.org is running a series called New Boom all about millennials in America and one part of that series is “Millennials Rewrite The Census For A Better Sense Of Selfie“. Here National Public Radio called for people to send in selfies with a card, note or annotation that described them better or ore holistically than the data they would be reduced to in the consensus.

Jenna Dobosenski, 22, Chisago City, Minn. Image courtesy of Jenna Dobosenski via nrp.org

This project actively allows people to see how their selfies can define and redefine them. And it is really interesting to see what characteristics people chose to share about themselves when specifically asked. But without this project, without the captions or signs, what would this peoples’ online identity say about them? Would it be in line with what they chose to describe themselves as? Would it be in line with the constrictive consensus data? Or would it be another identity altogether?

I have even previously posted about creating identities on the internet and how we shape them for the specific platform we are on. (Don’t judge my past writing styles)  emilyjward.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/authentic_self/. Rutledge for Psychology Today also says that “we don’t know how to think about selfies using our current mental models.  We know what to do with pictures of babies, people holding trophies, or even those teens holding soccer balls smiling so proudly on the mantel.” But what do we do with selfies?

Make them into artworks apparently.

The New Project: Meet #FaceValue

Pitch: An Instagram account not following everyone, with no previous photos, and no followers uploads an image. Who likes it?

Instagram is a place where we construct and portray an identity. Regardless of whether it is a true or accurate one is irrelevant. A sense of self, a version of ourselves, is put out there by the images we chose to (or chose not to) share. Each time an image is selected to be uploaded a decision about the type of persona is made. Because most of the people seeing those images don’t know you except for the images you chose to upload. You are choosing to share parts of yourself with people who can only take you at face value.

I am going to upload around 50 images of myself to Instagram, different ones, showing different parts of my personality. A new account, with no followers and no previous images/engagement. All will be tagged with the same hashtags and uploaded at the same time to ensure that the same people have access to all the images. I want to see how those pictures are reduced to only the context of how many likes they get.


I am going to capture screenshots of each image I upload to Instagram and then print them off to display as a collection of photos on the wall. The number of likes may dominate the image to show Instagram is more about the likes than the image itself. Or I might make the images with more likes larger, to show the way likes amount to value in this platform.

I thought about getting the images printed as photos, to be ironic considering may of the images uploaded to Instagram would never be considered to print. However, now I am thinking I want them printed on paper in standard ink. If I produce them to be ephemeral objects it reflects the attitudes towards selfies as non-important. And I want to use that as a juxtaposition to highlight the fact that those images go a long way to creating an identity for us, something that is the opposite on “non-important”.

Image selection

I have selected various selfies from the past year. Some mean a lot to me, taken on special days, taken by special people. Some mean little, I can’t even remember when some of them were taken. Some of the photos of myself I really like, but I also selected some that I don’t like: ones where I have coldsores, pimples, I think I look fat, I look silly. I wanted to try and stop that process of self editing by the photos I took. I didn’t to select images just based on my perception of their shareability. And yet an element of that always exists: I was very aware that I was putting up images of myself on a public platform, and that those images were then going to be exhibited on a gallery wall. That did, in a way, change that selection process.

Hashtag selection

Hashtags on Social Media reduces the face value of people to the likes they can get. People literally only put hashtags on their photo so more people will see and engage with their image. I used research I had already done on the most popular tags to select which tags to use, and I combined the relevant top rated tags with some more community specific tags. I chose ones from the beauty and makeup community because my photos were selfies and cosmetics and makeup, therefore, feature. I have to keep them general enough so they worked for all the images, but specific enough to warrant people’s engagement with them.

#art #behappy #instagood #smile #eyes #instabeauty #bbloggerau #makeupaddict #lipstickjunkie #lashes #curlyhairdontcare #selfie #selfienation #facevalue

 Criteria which will allow me to judge #FaceValue as successful

Any type of engagement from Instagram users. I am worried about none of my photos getting more than 3 likes each. I think if some get few or no likes that is interesting, but to make the project engaging I need a number to get over 10-11.

An artwork that is aesthetically interesting. I want to mimic elements of Instagram, but to call on new features. Like Warhol’s Monroe images I want a holistic sense to be formed from the smaller images, representing how each images plays a role in creating our whole persona. However, also like Warhol, I want the differences (size or number of likes) to create a disjointedness, points of interest in each individual image.

A final product means something. I want that final cluster of images on the wall to make people think about what images they are chosing to share online and what that says about them both in and out of that digital space. I don’t expect #FaceValue to have the answers to the big sweeping questions about the role and effect of social media image sharing, but I do want it to be a part of the discussion people are being to have about those questions.

Roadblocks: Media Art Project

Just a progress report on the project I am currently working on using iteration and repetition. I tested a few iterations and it was working really well. Uploading the same photo but going down the alphabetical list of 200 hashtags I had compiled of the most popular, most relevant and most engaged comunities was somewhat tedious. But I was interested to see results.

But when I started uploading more I noticed the problem. I had 78 images uploaded. Until I refreshed my profile. I had 45. 49. 37. Because it was the same image being uploaded numerous times my image had been marked by Instagram as spam!

I had researched into this as a possible roadblock and the only issues I saw that might mark my account as spam was a forum where a person shared that uploading 100 images in an hour had locked her account. So I tried to avoid this by uploading a few images every day. Unfortunately other unpredictable issues arose.

I still want to work with Instagram because I am still interested in the area of social media-artistic expression-identity. I will regroup and see how I plan on using the research I have already done to create a new art piece.

Ideas are Forming: Media Art Project

So I previously discussed how it was Warhol’s screenprinting that inspired by current media art project. But I have had time to explore those links further. Warhol used Marilyn to highlight how the mass production of photos removed the meaning of the image of Marilyn to less than her identity to just a icon of pop culture.

However, instagram gives our images to contextualise the image and control the audience by changing and controlling the tags we put on our image.

I think when considering how we are using social media platforms to construct our identities this is important to consider. We elect what community sees our images, and what the context of that image is, based on the tags we chose to use.

In having this thought I have been researching Instagram hashtags. Huffpost and Top-Hastags, and many others, have complied lists of the top most used hashtags on Instagram. However, a highly used tag doesn’t necessarily mean an engaged community. TheFoolishObsession talks about the need to engage a particular viewing, and doing that through specifically selected tags (her examples are for beauty and lifestyle bloggers).

I also found an article by The Huffington Post which analyses the best times and days to upload an image to Instagram to ensure maximum engagement. This isn’t something I had realised would change so much day to day and is something I need to consider going forward.

Other things I need to consider going forward is the place of my work in the context of other media artists. At this stage the other work that I consider as relevant context and can be seen as shaping my piece as much as the initial inspiration from Warhol is My Life in Google Adwords by Erica Scourti. The idea that the video she created “charts personal experience channeled through Google algorithms to create a long-list of objects, brands, emotional states, desires and anything else identified as potentially sale-able” is interesting. In the same way she reduced her journal to marketable adwords, I want to reduce my image to shareable hashtags.

I have created my Instagram account Face.Value.Media and am excited to keep this project moving forward. More research and insights about social media platforms are being published daily, but there is a place for the social and media artists to explore the meanings, effects and roles of these platforms.

Another Uni Assessment: Media Art Project

This assessment calls on us to ‘create a work that is composed of iterated and/or repetitive procedural action’. The medium is undefined. However, after trying my hand at coding and not being able to produce the complex ideas I wanted to I think that this project will be more arts-and-crafts-y.

I was originally inspired by the image of Warhol’s Monroes.

© 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London//Tate

In my mind (and as represented by the Tate) Warhol’s Monroe examines the cult of celebrity. By repeating the image, he evokes her constant presence in the media. But by glorifying Monroe by using the icon of pop culture he is not representing her, rather the part of her that was created by (and for) the media. In doing this Warhol reveals her public persona as a carefully structured illusion.

Alienation and de-personalisation are seen as a result of this mass production and the torrent of images flooding the modern world.

The idea that the media has removed her identity through the mass sharing of images raises the question that in this era of the popularity of photo sharing media platforms how do we present and construct our own personas?

Not only did the idea of the flood of images remind me of the way people flood photo sharing platforms with images of themselves, but the aesthetics of Warhol’s Monroes reminded me of the aesthetics of an Instagram profile.

Warhol’s use of repetition gives the work an inclusive quality, the works are a whole. Normally repetition means that it does not place a focus on any particular part of the composition. However, Warhol’s use of the screen-printing allows much variety in the density of the ink and in other *errors* which together leads to many subtle variations. The variations are then highlighted as points of interest.

For me that meant finding the variation on Instagram. Initially I thought of changing the filters of the image and seeing if that changed the response of people. However, I noticed that the variation that changes the most on the platform is the tags used.

So if the same image is uploaded 200 times with different tags it becomes easier to track what hashtags have the most engaged community. How does that online community respond to a particular image? How does the hashtag inform the audience’s interaction with the photo? How will people receive the images I plan to flood Instagram with? And how do they change people’s (and my) perception of me?

Media Arts

This was my first go at using Processing.org; actually it was my first time coding at all.
And this was the end product.


This program works on the idea of repetition and variation. Originally I started with circles on a page that varied in size and colour. I loved (and still do) how they look asthetically, but thought it could be more complex.

Processing Pretty

But the more I added to this, the more complex I tried to make it, the more I changed my code the less it resembled my initial vision for the piece. At one point I ended up with what could only be described as a mess of circles. And it reminded me of some concepts and videos we had looked at in class that examined the relationship between repetition and deterioration.

Alvin Lucier’s “I am sitting in a room” and William Raben’s 4’22”
Both pieces, in different ways, look at the way repetition distorts the message to produce something new.

So I pretended the mess was deliberate, and I added some order to chaos I was creating. I started with neat little lines of pastel circles which become bigger, less ordered and deepen in colour each time a new layer is added. And in the end you get a sense of distortion of the circle’s colour and shape. But the levels of opacity allow the past to remain visible and patterns emerge.

The First layer of dots that fill the page.
The First layer of dots that fill the page.
The second layer of circles being added.
The second layer of circles being added.
The result after many layers are added.
The result once the process has ended.

There are a lot of places to find inspiration for the resulting work, and the code. If you are starting out with processing I recommend working through processing.org/tutorials. But there is plenty of information just a google away. I got the code for moving objects from here then just added what I had learnt from our class workshops.

The Code:

//Colourful Mess – Emily Ward
int numofcolours = 5;//this line establishes the number of colours that will be selected and drawn on
int rbgop = 4; //this line allows the red blue green tones of a colour to be determined, as well as opacity.
int[][] colArray= new int [numofcolours][rbgop] ;

int xpos = 0; //the starting position of the circle on the x axis
int ypos = 0; //the starting position of the circle on the y axis
int diameter = 10; //the diamater of the first row of circles

void setup() {
size (800,300); //determines the size of the canvas
background (255); //the background is white
//noLoop is turned off because the program needs to loop to function. noLoop is a part of a if function at the end to stop the program from running infinitely.

void draw() {
noStroke(); //circles don’t have an outline
ellipse(xpos, ypos, diameter, diameter); //draws the first circle
xpos=xpos+diameter; //moves the second circle along the x axis the width of the diameter to ensure no overlap
//the next 3 lines of code are that when a circle is to be drawn off the canvas on the x axis then it goes back to x = 0 but moves down the y axis the width of the diameter.
if (xpos>width)
//the next 4 lines of code are that when a circle is being drawn off the canvas on the y axis it goes back to the top left corner (0,0).
//but the diameter increases by 20 pixels. This way the circle size grows with each layer.
if (ypos>height)
ypos = 0;
diameter = diameter +20;
//the next 2 lines of code are so that when the circles reach a size of more than half the height of the canvas the program ends.
if (diameter > height/2)
//This just places the array within the program
getColour ();

//this creates the array from which the colour will be selected from.
void fillcolourArray(){
for(int i = 0; i < numofcolours; i++){
//I originally had the array set to a specific palette. But once I decided I liked the distortion of the image through overlaying I thought that the wider range of colours would make more interesting relationships.
colArray[i][0] = (int)random(255);
colArray[i][1] = (int)random(255);
colArray[i][2] = (int)random(255);
//I set opacity at 50 because I wanted each circle to have an obvious deepening of colour
colArray[i][3] = (int)(50);

// this function uses the array to get a colour from the array and sets the fill() based on that colour.
void getColour(){
int colSelect = (int)random(numofcolours);
fill(colArray[colSelect][0], colArray[colSelect][1], colArray[colSelect][2], colArray[colSelect][3]);