Facing the Strange

In the article Steinke says: When I look at masked people my brain still feels like its malfunctioning, a skipping sensation, a tenuous connection is reached for and missed.” Describe a situation from your recent experience where not seeing faces has caused significant misunderstanding, confusion, or grief.

Which of the faces discussed in the text were of particular interest to you and your experience? How do you think about these faces?

Who are you without your face? How is your experience different without your face in public? Can you imagine new ways to face the world?

Surrealist Party – Denise Belon 1950’s


Goodnight, 2020
Maurizio Cattelan, Super Us, 1998.

First created in 1992, the self-portrait Super Us
also demonstrates Cattelan’s irreverent
approach to this type of work. It consists of
multiple portraits of Cattelan produced by
police-composite-sketch artists and based on
accounts submitted by friends and
acquaintances. The results are a record of the
varying impressions that he had made on those
who provided the descriptions. Beyond
portraying the self as a network of other
people’s appraisals, Cattelan’s goal was also to
visualize the way in which our perceptions of
others can never form a complete picture. The
work provides 50 different views of the artist,
presenting a multiple and fractured self rather
than a unified, integrated whole. Cattelan
states, “That piece was really about how people
around you perceive you in different ways than
how you really are. So I was thinking about
visualizing the idea of the self. The drawings
really looked like me, but at the same time they
were like cartoons. They were terrific. I don’t
know if it was a fluke.” From Guggenheim.org


Mom and Dad, 1994

Janine Antoni has crafted her personal aesthetic out of everyday activities and the objects that surround them. In particular she focuses on the rituals of the body, such as eating, sleeping, and bathing, as well as what would once have been called “women’s work,” such as mopping and weaving. A polyglot when it comes to mediums, Antoni has created sculptures, videos, photographs, and paintings, but the unifying substrate in her work has always been her body and the actions and contexts that encode it.
Two photographic works have used her parents as sculptural material. In Mom and Dad (1994), Antoni made up each of her parents in the guise of the other, photographing them together in three different permutations with either one or both of them costumed in this way From Guggenheim.org


Gillian Wearing Self Portrait of Me Now in Mask 2011
Self Portrait at 17 Years Old, 2003© Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley, London
Rock and Roll, Gillian Wearing 2015


Ana Mendieta – Facial Hair Transplants, 1972

Ana Mendieta’s “Untitled (Facial Hair Transplants)” is a unique work that examines the boundary of what is typical for men and women.  In this 1972 work, Mendieta transfers the beard of a fellow student at the time, Morty Sklar, onto her own face.  The actual work is a group of photographs documenting the process and final result.  (From here)


From: Looking for a Bomb

Erwin Wurm: From top – One-Minute Sculptures (ongoing series)

Cindy Sherman (and follow her instagram for regular posts of facial transformations)

Jackie Nickerson

Nina Katchadourian

“Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style” from Seat Assignment
2010 and ongoing

Improvising with materials close at hand, Seat Assignment consists of photographs, video, and digital images all made while in flight using only a camera phone. The project began spontaneously on a flight in March 2010 and is ongoing. At present, over 2500 photographs and video, made on nearly 200 different flights to date, constitute the raw material of the project.

While in the lavatory on a domestic flight in January 2011, I spontaneously put a tissue paper toilet cover seat cover over my head and took a picture in the mirror using my cellphone. The image evoked 15th-century Flemish portraiture. I decided to add more images made in this mode and planned to take advantage of a long-haul flight from San Francisco to Auckland, guessing that there were likely to be long periods of time when no one was using the lavatory on the 14-hour flight. I made several forays to the bathroom from my aisle seat, and by the time we landed I had a large group of new photographs entitled Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style. I was wearing a thin black scarf that I sometimes hung up on the wall behind me to create the deep black ground that is typical of these portraits. There is no special illumination in use other than the lavatory’s own lights and all the images are shot hand-held with the camera phone. At the Dunedin Public Art gallery, the photos were framed in faux-historical frames and hung on a deep red wall reminiscent of the painting galleries in museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. From Nina Katchadourian

Jan Hakon Erichsen

Jan Hakon Erichsen, 2020

Jan Hakon Erichsen, 2020


Change your face three ways. Make up a new face, or a new way to hide your face. Make an alternative pandemic mask. Use your face as the base of a sculpture. Make your face into something that is not a face. Or that is someone else’s face. Be playful, and see how many ways you might explore your own face, and to think about faces in this moment.

You must do this manually, using materials found around your home – not by altering/photoshopping the images. Some gestures might be light and quick, some might take more time.

Document your new face with your computer (like in zoom) or with a tripod and photo timer, or have someone in your household help out.

Post your three best transformations, with a brief description of each. These will not be discussed as a group – but the results must be on the blog.

Conceptual Portraits


On Kawara

On Kawara has based the entirety of his collection of books, paintings, and drawings on the arbitrariness and subjectivity of the way we measure time. Many of his projects are ongoing, making Kawara himself, as the recorder of time, one of the primary materials in his conceptual works. Kawara is perhaps best known for the “date paintings” in his Today series (1966-), each of which conforms to one of eight predetermined sizes and features a date in hand-lettered typography painted over a monochromatic background. The artist completed the canvases while living or staying in over 100 cities around the world. Each date painting is displayed with a handcrafted cardboard box and a clipping from a newspaper published in the same city and on the same day that the artist made the work. Kawara continues to create new works in the series.


KAWON0321_PIECE 0000
KAWON0413_PIECE 0000
KAWON0427_PIECE 0000

“Today” series, 1966-2013
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 10 inches (20.3 x 25.4 cm)


One Million Years (Past), 1970-1971

10 leather hardbound volumes 2,000 pages


On Kawara: Reading One Million Years (Past and Future)

installed at documenta 11, Kassel, Germany in 2002


Pages from One Million Years (Future) One Million Years (Future), 1980-1998

10 leather hardbound volumes, 2,000 pages


Kawara’s interest in how our society uses dates to grasp time’s elusiveness can be seen in the two–volume book project One Million Years. The first book, Past, is dedicated to “all those who have lived and died,” and covers the years from 998,031 BC to 1969 AD. The second book, Future, is dedicated to “the last one,” and begins with the year 1993 AD and ends with the year 1,001,992 AD. At the request of the artist, portions of the books have been read aloud in locations around the world. A recording of these readings is part of Kawara’s installation here.



Teching Hsieh
One Year Performance 1980-1981

(Video in link, first 1min 30 seconds gives a succinct explanation of the piece)

John Baldessari

John Baldessari was born in National City, California in 1931. He attended San Diego State University and did post-graduate work at Otis Art Institute, Chouinard Art Institute and the University of California at Berkeley. He taught at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, CA from 1970 – 1988 and the University of California at Los Angeles from 1996 – 2007


I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art, 1971

Douglas Gordon, List of Names, 1990 to ongoing

“This work consists of a list of names, displayed in columns, as if it were a war memorial or a roll of honour. They are the names of everyone the artist has ever met, or more precisely, everyone he can remember meeting. Gordon says of this work, ‘It was an accurate and honest statement but it was full of mistakes (like forgetting the names of some friends), so there were some embarrassing elements in the work, but that all seemed to be quite close to the truth of how our head functions anyway. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.” From: https://www.a-n.co.uk/media/52431069/)

Kelly Mark: Artist Statement

I have always had an intense preoccupation with the differing shades of pathos and humour found in the repetitive mundane tasks, routines and rituals of everyday life. Hidden within these spans of time can be found startling moments of poetic individuation, and an imprint of the individual within the commonplace rituals of society. Individuation, especially within this uniformity, although subtle and frequently paradoxical, is something I find myself returning to again and again. Through my ‘will to order’ and my frequently inane sense of humour my objective is the investigation, documentation and validation of these singular ‘marked’ and ‘unmarked’ moments of our lives…

In & Out – 1997 ongoing until 2032

Steel time card racks & punched cards

Current dimensions of installed work is approximately 28 feet

This work was purchased by a private collector in 1999 and he continues to purchase each years cards

Installation view of 1997-2008: Time as Activity at Netwerk Center for Contemporary Art. Aalst, Belgium 2009

Ongoing project where I keep track of my ‘working hours’ in the studio on an old punch clock. Started in 1997, this project will end in 2032 when i turn 65.

Sourced from Kelly Mark’s Website

  1/8Hiccup #1 (Toronto) – 2000
30 day public performance/intervention 
7-channel video installation: 15 minutes each, silent 
Commissioned by Public for the exhibition Being on Time at Central Tech. Toronto, 2000
Photo Credit: Emily Brian. Video credit: Marc PiccinatoThis 7-channel video entitled Hiccup is based on a 30 day performance that took place daily between 8:45 am & 9:00 am at Central Tech High School in downtown Toronto. Conceived as an orchestrated “ballet of the ordinary”, the work pivots on the play of two differentiated timelines: my standardized routine of carefully choreographed body movements, juxtaposed against the limitless variables of the everyday world.
Everyday for one month I arrived at the front of the school at the exact same time, wearing the same clothes and sitting on the same step. Then as the students began to arrive, I began my performace of a pre-set routine of simple everyday actions. I smoked a cigarette, took sips from my coffee, looked to the left, stretched my leg, adjusted my hat, red the same 5 pages from a book and underlined the same passage etc… Although appearing to be moving and acting in a completely natural and spontaneous way I was in fact, with the aid of a pre-recorded audio track on headphones, completing the exact same actions and gestures everyday at exactly the same time. For one month I entered into the normal daily routine of the people around me as a background element… a small anonymous deja-vu experience.
During this month I had 7 days of this performance video taped from across the street, this is what was exhibited, and the effect of each video shows me moving in synch with myself from monitor to monitor while everything else around me is different.

Micah Lexier:


A Portrait of David, 1994.

Life-size photographs of men and boys named David, one of each each from age 1 to age 75. Commissioned by and presented at The Winnipeg Art Gallery


David Then & Now, 2004.

Bus shelter project presented throughout downtown Winnipeg, presented by Plug In ICA. This is the follow up project to A Portrait of David, in which we photographed one David of every age, from age 1 to age 75. For this project, David Then & Now, we located as many of the original Davids as possible and photographed them exactly 10 years later.

Sourced from Micah Lexier’s Tumblrhttp://artmatters.ca/wp/2010/03/micah-lexiers-39-wooden-balls-video/

Katie Patterson:

Langjökull, Snæfellsjökull, Solheimajökull


Sound recordings from three glaciers in Iceland were pressed into three records, then cast and frozen using the meltwater from each corresponding glacier. The discs of ice were then played simultaneously on three turntables until they melted completely.

Langjökull, Snæfellsjökull, Solheimajökull
Langjökull, Snæfellsjökull, Solheimajökull
Langjökull, Snæfellsjökull, Solheimajökull

All the Dead Stars


A map documenting the locations of just under 27,000 dead stars – all that have been recorded and observed by humankind.


Adrian Piper

Adrian Margaret Smith Piper (b. 1948) is a first-generation Conceptual artist and analytic philosopher. She began exhibiting her artwork internationally at the age of twenty, and graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 1969. Adrian Piper produces artwork in a variety of traditional and nontraditional media, including photo-text collage, drawing on pre-printed paper, video installation, site-specific sculptural installation, digital imagery, performance and sound works. Piper’s works locate the viewer in a direct, unmediated and indexical relation to the concrete specificity of the object of awareness. They consistently explore the nature of subjecthood and agency, the limits of the self, and the continuities and discontinuities of individual identity in the metaphysical, social and political contexts.



Catalysis III, 1970

In her Catalysis series, Adrian Piper physically transformed herself into an odd or repulsive person and went out in public in New York to experience the frequently disdainful responses of others.



The Mythic Being, 1973

In 1973, Adrian Piper created an alter-ego, the Mythic Being, who became the basis of a pioneering series of performances and photo-based works. Piper—a light-skinned woman of mixed racial heritage—transformed herself into the Mythic Being by donning an Afro wig, sunglasses, and mustache and adopting behavior conventionally identified as masculine. She then explored how she and others responded to the Mythic Being. In the process, she transformed the conceptual art practices common in the period, infusing them with strong personal and political content.



Calling Card, 1986

Piper also explores issues of personal identity and social boundaries. Using the antiquated nineteenth-century social convention of calling cards, Piper adopts a passive-aggressive approach to showcase how racism and sexism are intrinsically harmful. One of the two “calling cards” in the Indiana University Art Museum’s collections (the brown one) uses misperception of her race (she is a light-skinned African American) to directly confront anyone who utters a racist remark in her presence. The white card thwarts the presumption of men that she is available simply because she is unaccompanied. She says she handed these cards out in the above situations and has since exhibited them for viewers to take and use. While not precious or valuable in the traditional sense, they clearly represent her ideology. The focus in these mass-produced objects is not on craft, but on the ideas behind their production.

Sophie Calle:

Take Care of Yourself:

In 2007, the conceptual and performance artist Sophie Calle was chosen to represent France at the Venice Biennale. The installation she created for the French pavilion, titledPrenez soin de vous (Take Care of Yourself), comprises hundreds of photographs, documents and videos that depict 105 women’s (plus two puppets’ and a parrot’s) interpretations of the same source document: a break-up email sent to the artist by her lover in 2004 which ends with the cryptic and seemingly offensive parting, ‘Take care of yourself’. The email’s clichéd ending became the instructional imperative for the artwork but, unlike her other works, in which Calle played a central and active role as artist-protagonist, Prenez soin de vous constitutes a dispersal of autonomous artistic authorship, offering up in its place a collective form of interpretive labour by other women. By inviting so many different women to interpret the breakup email based on their professional expertise, Calle’s project engages – perhaps accidentally – in a feminist critique of women’s work in the post-industrial, service-based economy or a commentary on women’s current roles as both producers and consumers of culture.https://www.youtube.com/embed/Q9E4dA0EGaM?enablejsapi=1&autoplay=0&cc_load_policy=0&cc_lang_pref=&iv_load_policy=1&loop=0&modestbranding=0&rel=1&fs=1&playsinline=0&autohide=2&theme=dark&color=red&controls=1&

Spring Hurlbut

Memorial portraits, representing the intangible:https://www.youtube.com/embed/DNEL6W76qXE?enablejsapi=1&autoplay=0&cc_load_policy=0&cc_lang_pref=&iv_load_policy=1&loop=0&modestbranding=0&rel=1&fs=1&playsinline=0&autohide=2&theme=dark&color=red&controls=1&


“Hurlbut “wanted to do something that was secular, but something that was meaningful to me, and that was to investigate the ashes of my late father, James.”
Hurlbut had her father’s ashes in her Toronto studio for five years. Finally, she decided to photograph them.
“When I began this process, I didn’t even think I could call it art. It was just something I urgently needed to do for myself.” But when she exhibited the photographs for people who had allowed her to use the ashes of their loved ones, “it turned this very sombre affair into a cathartic experience.” From https://artsfile.ca/bearing-witness-governor-generals-visual-arts-laureates-ask-much-of-the-viewer/

Felix Gonzales Torres:

Felix Gonzalez-Torres

Felix Gonzalez-Torres was born in Guáimaro, Cuba, in 1957. He earned a BFA in photography from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, in 1983. Printed Matter, Inc. in New York hosted his first solo exhibition the following year. After obtaining an MFA from the International Center of Photography and New York University in 1987, he worked as an adjunct art instructor at New York University until 1989. Throughout his career, Gonzalez-Torres’s involvement in social and political causes as an openly gay man fueled his interest in the overlap of private and public life. From 1987 to 1991, he was part of Group Material, a New York-based art collective whose members worked collaboratively to initiate community education and cultural activism. His aesthetic project was, according to some scholars, related to Bertolt Brecht’s theory of epic theater, in which creative expression transforms the spectator from an inert receiver to an active, reflective observer and motivates social action. Employing simple, everyday materials (stacks of paper, puzzles, candy, strings of lights, beads) and a reduced aesthetic vocabulary reminiscent of both Minimalism and Conceptual art to address themes such as love and loss, sickness and rejuvenation, gender and sexuality, Gonzalez-Torres asked viewers to participate in establishing meaning in his works.

Also in 1992, Untitled (1991), a sensual black-and-white photograph of Gonzalez-Torres’s empty, unmade bed with traces of two absent bodies, was installed on 24 billboards throughout the city of New York. This enigmatic image was both a celebration of coupling and a memorial to the artist’s lover, who had recently died of AIDS. Its installation as a melancholic civic-scaled monument problematized public scrutiny of private behavior.




Untitled (Perfect Lovers)
Wall clocks



Print on paper, endless copies

Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991

The approximate 175 pounds of candy that make up the work resembles the 175-pound body of Ross Laycock, the artists’ boyfriend who died of AIDS in 1991. As each person takes a piece of candy, they in turn act as the AIDS virus depleting Ross’ body, piece by piece taking it away until there is nothing left. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, who dedicated his artwork to the one he loved and lost, died in 1996 of AIDS.

His work doesn’t only represent the disease and its depletion on the body, but it represents the love between the person who is suffering from the disease and the person who is there to support them and suffer with them. The sweet candy, in and of itself, is a representation of love. If you think about giving candy to a loved one on valentine’s day, sweets in a box with flowers on mother’s day, candy has long been tied to affection and love. While the candy is eaten, while the body begins to disappear, the love remains.




Create a proposal for this assignment below. Write about references from the lecture that inform your thinking – use images and prepare to discuss your proposal in our next class meeting:

Make a Conceptual Portrait:

A photo series, a collection of things, an audio work, a found-object sculpture, a series of data-oriented drawings, or a video. Maximum limit for time-based works of 3 minutes.

For this open media project you will create a representation of something, or someone – in a non-literal way.

You will create your conceptual portrait by using a system – like a rule, a formula, a series of tasks, or an experiment to plan and create the work.

 Let the system be the “machine that makes the art” as Sol Lewitt said.

Consider creating a work that is:

  • A series of repeated gestures or actions that are documented or found
  • Modified found objects to change their purpose or meaning
  • A work made strictly by adhering to instructions, and documenting what is done
  • A series of similar-photos or video clips – taken or found – that come together to create deeper meaning than the images individually
  • Creative documentation of self-observation or data
  • A task-based experiment in any media with results unknown in advance, present results
  • A substitution of one material reality for another

Week 5

  1. Reminders: Schedule, Social Distancing portrait footage is due on WEDNESDAY
  2. Facing the Strange text reading and discussion
  3. Quick Face exercise for ZOOM – assign faces also for next week.


2. Video editing demo in class

Working on Final video and discussion in progress

Work on faces post for the blog!

These videos are due on WEDNESDAY in Week 6!