The concept is simple but unique. By becoming a “liker” of the Profile Picture Exhibition Facebook page, you will have the opportunity to have your social media profile picture on display in an art exhibit at prestigious art museums around the world. By combining over 1 million Facebook profile pictures into a single work of art, the Profile Picture Exhibition will illustrate the diversity and originality of people around the world and make statement about the culture of the current “social media generation.” Today we’re interviewing Ben Beale and Rory Forerest of the Profile Picture Exhibition to find out more...
Ben and Rory, thank you for taking the time to talk with us!
HIA: Can you give our audience your background.
I’m a Dragon and Rory’s an Oompaloompa pimp. Art often takes itself way too seriously, and part of this project is about bursting that bubble. What we like about this project, is that its not about us, we are not the creators, just the curators.
HIA: So tell us a little about how the project began and what motivated you to start this project.
We were actually walking through the National Portrait Gallery and overheard a tour guide talking about this kind of art:
A portrait was typically an artwork emperors or noblemen would commission in order to seal their place in history, a way to portray themselves to the world. Of wealth, status, heritage, every detail would be crafted in order to make some kind of statement.
And we realized that nothing had really changed. The art has just been democratized. And arguably, it has more reach now than it ever has.
That was the beginning.
HIA: Talk about what you are hoping to achieve with this project.
The best projects are the ones that bring people together. Kevin Macdonald’s “Life In A Day” touched us as a piece of cinema.
We had never felt so profoundly connected to the whole world at one moment.
It showed us the incredible raw power of YouTube.
But it wasn’t the technology that was incredible. It was the users. Immeasurably different, wonderfully unique users- from every corner the globe. Live. Connected.
That’s how this should feel. All of us reappraising and changing our world together, entirely positively.
We feel, on a good day, something like that has the power to genuinely make a difference.
HIA: Can you give us an idea of what the overall finished product will be like?
Eventually we'd love to make the entire exhibition work live (with projections or giant LCD touchscreens)- you'd be able to see how everyone connects to each other in real time, see how people group into different demographics, languages, locations.
It would be a cultural feast- the stats for the group are incredible already.
I've attached a section so you can take a peek, it's brilliant to see the global reach it already has- only a few weeks after launch. Imagine what this will look like if/when we reach a million.
HIA: Where will the exhibition take place?
We’ve already held 2 exhibitions. One is a graffiti piece on the walls of Shoreditch, the other is a gallery space in Clerkenwell.
These are however smaller landmarks on the road to something a lot bigger.
The end goal is to get into a world renowned gallery. And this could happen at any time. A week, a month, a year, a decade- it honestly depends on how quickly we reach our target, and that is entirely in the hands of the public.
HIA: What challenges have you faced to get this off the ground?
To begin with, we thought we needed all our pieces perfectly in place to get the ball rolling- the right galleries signed up, the right people involved, the right tech in place.
The problem with doing things that way, is that at the start of any project, there’s always a million people telling you why it won’t work, why you can’t do it, and why it’s a bad idea. And this particular project has been no different.
After a while we realized we couldn’t rely on anyone else to make this happen. No galleries would be willing to book us in without a following, no experts are willing to donate their time without the promise of return, and no tech companies will supply you with product if you don’t have cold hard cash.
Which frankly, is completely understandable.
And as soon as we realized that, we were off.
Once you adopt the Wayne’s World way of thinking (if you book them they will come) things start to run a lot more smoothly.
As the group grows, those hard conversations become a lot easier. The people that said it couldn’t be done start to get on board, and doors begin to open all around.
It’s easy to say no to one person, with an idea.
It’s a lot harder to say no to a couple of thousand- with a movement.
HIA: Talk a little about the technical challenges of putting this all together into a finished work of art.
The biggest problem we’re going to face is making the exhibition live, and getting a hold of all that data once the group hits really big numbers. Facebook are really tight with privacy and have protected their code very heavily. We're trying to get in touch with them now to work something out and see what our options are.
HIA: What has the response been from the overall public about this project?
Suprisingly, we’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response so far.
When we started, we genuinely thought the project would be more dividing- that it would cause more of an outrage within the Art community than it has. But that’s not the reaction we received at all.
We’ve had chats with established photographers, members of the Royal Academy Of Art, tutors at reputable institutions, collectors- all kinds of people who generally take their medium quite seriously. And most, have not just been interested in the concept- but have joined the group and promoted it for us.
1 billion of us have profile pictures- a 7th of the entire globe, if these pictures can be considered art, that would make the profile picture phenomenon the largest movement in art history- that’s big.
The Profile Picture Exhibition hasn’t created this art movement, it already exists- so it’s hard to have an artistic opinion on the group.
We’re just collectors. You either agree with the statement, or don’t.
HIA: Do you have plans to create a website for the project?
Eventually I think we’re going to have to. There are so many things we want to do for the group but cant because we’re restricted by what we can make within Facebook.
At the moment however, it all comes down to a simple matter of funding.
Right now, we’re running on favors, goodwill and our own private reserves- so creating anything outside of Facebook is a little beyond our means.
But who knows, in the future, with sponsorship or a willing patron behind the idea, we could end up creating all kinds of exciting ways for users to interact with the project
HIA: Do you have anything else you would like to add to our interview?
Just thank you for your time and energy, both to HIA and it’s readers- I know we like to ramble. We really do appreciate your involvement.
Thank you again for taking the time to speak with us about this exciting project. Best of luck to you and we’ll be following the progress of the initiative. We hope to have a follow up interview with you after the first exhibition so please stay in touch! For more information about The Profile Picture Exhibition, please visit facebook.com/Profilepictureexhibition or follow them on twitter @BeArtOnFacebook