Esquire’s Portrait of the 21st Century is one element of the magazine’s 75th Anniversary celebration. Esquire’s anniversary issue, to be published in September, will examine the century that is just beginning, in part by profiling the 75 most influential people of the 21st century (ncluding Lebron James, Elon Musk, M.I.A., George Clooney, Samantha Powers & Marc Jacobs). Esquire and Hearst commissioned the sculptor and new-media artist Lincoln Schatz to create a work that would unite many of these people in a single dynamic portrait.
From May through September, Schatz will create dozens of individual portraits in his CUBE, a ten-foot-by-ten-foot translucent box fitted with 24 cameras that stream digital video to 24 computers. During each one-hour sitting, CUBE subjects are encouraged to represent their personalities, interests, and values in whatever ways they choose. Then, using thousands of these video files, Schatz creates a portrait made up of a randomized, perpetually evolving progression of overlapping images. Moored in the moment but never quite the same thing twice, Schatz’s “generative” portraits have an infinite ability to reconfigure perception and reorder time.
As Schatz finishes each individual sitting, the installation will grow and change to accommodate the new arrivals. “Esquire’s Portrait of the 21st Century,” a collective work combining all the individual portraits, will be completed just as the anniversary issue reaches newsstands.
— David Granger, Editor-in-Chief, Esquire
Portraiture has historically been a means to immortality for the sitter. Traditionally portraits are staged, single moments bound by the time in which the individual modeled for the artist. Lincoln Schatz builds on this tradition with a new multi-disciplinary work, CUBE, that combines attributes of architecture, sculpture, new media, relational aesthetics, and performance to create contemporary portraits through video and computer technology.
CUBE, a 10’ x 10’ translucent architectural structure, extends from the artist’s formal background as a sculptor and draws on his more recent practice in generative video memory artworks. CUBE is designed with 24 video cameras mounted at varying heights within the structure. During a one-hour sitting, digital capture from each video camera is streamed to a computer that houses the artist’s specially designed software. The resulting portrait is compiled from thousands of randomly selected video files; these infinitely reconfiguring images are presented on a plasma screen powered by a computer. Through this process, 24 cameras generate a 24-hour rendering that extends beyond the historical notions of portraiture as a static image and creates a lasting record that is wholly dynamic in its ability to reconfigure images and reorder time.
Acknowledging the tradition of portraits as biographical, CUBE subjects are encouraged to represent their personalities, interests and values in whatever capacity they choose. The artist collaborates with the participants to help them develop their own conceptual approach to an hour in the CUBE.
The entire project, Esquire’s Portrait of the 21st Century, was filmed in Hearst Tower’s newly opened lobby space. In 2010, Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery acquired the full project, Esquire’s Portrait of the 21st Century, and is now a part of their permanent collection. Allowing for an incredible platform to film on. Please click any of the images below to learn more about the subjects featured in Esquire’s Portrait of the 21st Century video project.