[ISEA2019] Artist Statement: Jean-Philippe Côté – Yöti, The Algortihmic Portrait Artist

Artist Statement

Computer, webcam, plotters, silver pens, black paper, plastic tubing and lighting, 160x210x110 cm.

Yöti is an automated portrait artist that uses salvaged 1980s pen plotters to draw, the likeness of participants using algorithmically-generated squiggly lines, on actual paper. From up close, the portraits look like an abstract collection of linear markings. However, from a distance, the lines clearly reveal Yöti’s interpretation of the visitor’s visage.

Yöti can be thought of as a deconstructed photobooth. Just like the good old analog photobooths, Yöti takes a few minutes to draw a portrait. During this time, visitors can witness their face slowly being drawn on paper by the plotters. The installation invites the visitor to reconsider its relation to anticipation and immediateness. This feels particularly relevant in these times of instant gratification through selfies, SnapChat and Instagram. By purposefully using “outdated” technologies, the installation also questions our relation to obsolescence, ephemerality and permanence.

Furthermore, it also takes interest in our rapport to the physical world. All participants leave with a physical object: a piece of paper bearing their portrait. Virtual, artificial and augmented realities are all fine but sometimes it just feels good to hold on to an actual, tangible object.

  • Jean-Philippe Côté. Born and based in Montreal (Canada), Jean-Philippe Côté (a.k.a. djipco) is an artist and teacher. His hybrid creations, sourced in cybernetics and prosthetics, explore this juncture where the roles of humans and machines overlap. Using open source software and ‘obsolete’ hardware, he puts together interactive installations that bring back a sense of tangibility to this growingly artificial world of ours. Leveraging his early years as an award-winning developer, he devises algorithmic approaches to reinventing reality and creating art. This makes him a regular contributor to the open source community especially in the field of physical computing and creative computing. His subject of choice is the human face which he often draws using micro or macro line segments. While somewhat figurative, his work always challenges the viewer’s first perceptions and usually calls for further scrutiny. Using generative and algorithmic processes, his creations are time and again the result of emergence and serendipity. Côté’s work has been exhibited in galleries and festivals internationally in venues such as Venice’s Arsenale, Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center, Montreal’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Gwangju’s Asia Culture Center and Fukuoka City’s Science Museum. He holds a master’s degree in communication with a specialization in experimental media from Université du Québec à Montréal. He teaches interactive media at Édouard-Montpetit College.