BORN NOW HERE
Following the success of the online identity project Born Nowhere (2011-2012), in 2013 Laís Pontes selected four of the crowd-sourced Born Nowhere characters and gave their personalities the opportunity to develop over the course of a three-year performance which took place online, offline and everywhere in between, in the lives of ten people - real people, not actors.
For this project, Born Now Here, each of the ten participants - Alex, Abbéy, Rafaela, Mariana, Gabrielle, Catalina, Tie, Manu, Virna and Laís herself - accepted the challenge of living as these characters, and received their character’s personal belongings, access to their profiles on Facebook, and total autonomy. Laís herself assumed the role of all the characters.
The project prompted many complex questions.
How do you live alongside a "person" whom you are simultaneously controlling?
What does it mean to bring a character who lives on social media into the physical world?
What does it mean to embody such a character every day and live alongside that character?
Can online and offline actions intertwine? Do online and offline actions have a different "weight" in the construction of identity?
How has the syndrome of Happy Culture developed online?
Is online identity an extension of ourselves?
Will a virtual character disappear or die when nobody embodies it?
Will a character’s Facebook account become an archival space for its existence, rather than its existence itself?
We are all aware that photographs, videos, reports and comments all become "content" for social media, but what we see in this project is an attempt to spark that content into real life.
The Born Now Here characters found themselves constantly transformed, gaining and losing character traits and even stories about their own past, as they passed from participant to participant. Meanwhile, the participants themselves found their lives, their self-image, and their judgements of others all transformed and disrupted by intimacy with a character who once used to be nothing more than a virtual, online fiction.
* * *
In moving from the static portrayal of crowd-sourced characters (in Born Nowhere) to actual character performance in Born Now Here, Laís Pontes also analyses Facebook as a performance space and archive.
Photographs, videos, reports, and comments are indeed "content" which feed the ephemeral activity of social media and social networks, but with this project we also see how interaction on Facebook turns these materials into a narrative. Moreover, even after the departure from of the participants who animated the characters, the performance stage remains, as Facebook is an open platform that allows others to interact with its content, regardless of the date when the information is released. Facebook is a nonstop recording medium.
* * *
Audience collaboration is a major characteristic of Laís Pontes's work. The Born Now Here project is collaborative in nature, with Pontes inviting, engaging with, and granting autonomy to, all. From perfect strangers with nothing in common to best friends who could not be more alike, each participant had the same authority to alter the meaning of the artwork while giving his or her own input. The interaction even created a sense of relationship between unrelated participants, as participants who never met one another gained second-hand intimacy through a shared virtual character.
Throughout the project, both participants and Facebook users introduced genuine insights from across the world.