Artie Vierkant, Rendition Two (Profile), 2016, ink-jet print on aluminum, 50 × 40".

Artie Vierkant, Rendition Two (Profile), 2016, ink-jet print on aluminum, 50 × 40".

Artie Vierkant

Artie Vierkant, Rendition Two (Profile), 2016, ink-jet print on aluminum, 50 × 40".

Having plumbed digital circulation and intellectual property in previous bodies of work, Artie Vierkant consolidated these interests with the exploration of a person’s physical “profile.” Intended as “a functional copy of that person,” Profile (all works 2016; “Profile” was also the exhibition title) is composed of three unexhibited elements: a full-body photogrammetry scan, audio recordings of the subject made with the intention of producing a synthetic voice, and a contract that formalizes the subject’s surrender of the intellectual property and personality rights belonging to these representational materials in exchange for compensation. Although materially absent from the gallery, Profile is an artwork in its own right whose iterable inputs and outputs constitute artworks to be displayed, as they were here.

Clocking in at over ten hours, a two-channel video, also titled Profile, documents the audio capture, which demands a diversity of phonetic content regardless of meaning. As the subject recites a mishmash of banalities, critical theory, erotic video-game fan fiction, and articles on digital piracy, the video reflexively annotates the project’s theoretical concerns in a droll auto-bibliography. The six dye-sublimation prints on display manifest the corresponding outputs of the Profile; these recall nude figure drawings, anatomical studies, and portraiture. Approaching kitsch, the academicism of these still images is perhaps just another response, alongside abjection, to the attempt to regulate a body within the regimes of digital figuration.

The technologies Vierkant uses, such as those devoted to scanning, storage, and printing, require standards to ensure the effective movement of information between formats in communication chains. Reproduction of color, for instance, is hardly a natural process, but depends upon industry conventions and the management of color profiles that govern the communication between input and output devices. Codifying and formalizing a set of characteristics and relations to fix an identity, a profile itself is composed through norms whose utility depends on correspondence. Vierkant tends to scramble the normalizing function of tools such as motion-capture markers and clone stamping. But he doesn’t transgress so much as limn these infrastructures through Profile’s courting of extremes of mimetic resemblance. Even as they highlight sites of technical governance, the works adhere to traditional typologies of figuration. In the process, age-old questions of the relationship between artist and model are revived through the legal agreement and the particular qualities of the technology deployed.

Vierkant’s choice of subject mirrors his own social station as a white, male artist—a privileged identity that indirectly recalls the history of ideal social types and racial profiling. In a statement for the show, Vierkant positions his project against the fantasy that objects might achieve subjectivity through artificial intelligence; his concern is rather how subjects are objectified. These political valences aren’t fully actualized, but the violence of imaging is encoded in the operations of capturing and rendering, and there’s a genealogical connection to ways in which the instrumentalization of photography has abetted repressive state power. Here corporate applications of profiling are implicit, as the artist’s work flow mirrors those of creative industries, where the use of digital 3-D models has become ubiquitous. Stock profiles are widely available, but Vierkant’s use of Profile as intellectual property is dependent on its contractual link to the subject, secured through verisimilitude. The primary, human-friendly interface remains the picture; regardless of the content of the depiction, that person remains tied to the representation.

This referential aspect is at the crux of the social function Profile reckons with. But Profile and its associated products never adequately coincide with the subject in the manner assigned to a portrait. They make plain their misregistrations. A color calibration target’s grid of colored blocks largely obscures the seated figure in Rendition Two (Profile), so that technical, legal, pictorial, and art-historical disciplining structures overlap in the image. Tinged by the title’s evocation of “extraordinary rendition,” the figure, attempting self-possession, seems to explore the bounded non-space it inhabits, the virtual body groping for its limits. As much as the studio, it suggests the prison cell.

Phil Taylor