[ISEA97] Artist Statement: John Tonkin – The Perfectible Self

Artist Statement

This site consists of a series of java applets that use realtime high quality morphing techniques and statistical analysis to explore ideas relating to the body and identity. Historically different scientific belief systems have often been used as vehicles for the projection of other more dubious ideologies. Contemporary fields of research, for example the Human Genome Project seem just as prone to such tendencies. These pieces have developed from Elective Physiognomies, first shown at ISEA95. Elastic Masculinities is an exploration into the subjective experience of owning a body. In a culture obsessed with both self-observation and the observation of self by others, it seems most of us have a distorted body image. Bodies changes shape according to their state of mind and the cultural messages they’ve been digesting. Adjust the dimensions of the artist’s body, parameters include the size of chest, stomach, and penis. Classify the body according to heroic/cowardly, awkward/graceful etc… Compare your response with the statistical average.

“What do you think, do you like men with muscles? Is the new pressure on men’s appearance a balancing out of an old inequality between men and women or is it a similarly evil influence that must be stopped?”   _The Muscle Tussel New Weekly, 1996.

Survival of the Fittest uses a genetic algorithm. The user is able to evolve the artist’s face by clicking on a succession of faces. Each selected face becomes the parent for a new generation of facial variations. Over time different traits can be exaggerated or diminished according to the user’s choices. Ideas such as evolution have been misintepreted in order to rationalize such pseudo-sciences as eugenics. These ideas of perfectiblity are intrinsically linked to offensive notions of racial, moral and intellectual superiority

  • John Tonkin (Australia) is an Australian electronic media artist. For many years he created 3D animation using his own physi-cally based modelling software. He is currently working on a series of web based interactives. His work has been shown widely including at Siggraph (U.S.A.), ISEA93 (Minneapolis), Ars Electronica (Austria), VideoFest (Berlin) and ISEA95 (Montreal).

This project has been assisted by the Commonwealth Government, through the Australia Council (New Media Arts), it’s arts funding and advisory body.