Autoscopia is a 2009 virtual artwork by Justin Clemens, Christopher Dodds and Adam Nash, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery of Australia for its Doppelganger exhibition.
Autoscopia allowed users to enter names to create virtual portraits based on internet searches. These searches manifested as web portraits dynamically generated by search results, and audiovisual sculptures dynamically generated in Second Life. The Second Life component closed at the end of 2010, but the web portraits continued to grow for many years afterwards, all the while tweeting their existence, recursively feeding themselves back into the results of future searches.
A short explainer by the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.
A 45 minute stream of Autoscopia portraits generated by users.
The single channel video hung in the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.
In the psychological condition of autoscopia, I literally see myself. Autoscopia entails alienation (I am I/I am not I), division (I am one/I am two), disembodiment (I am outside my own body) and inorganic vision (I see my own body but not with my own eyes). There is also a variant known as 'negative autoscopia' (I cannot see my own reflection in a mirror). The doppelgänger and the vampire are two ancient images of such an experience: the doppelgänger is the literal body-double of oneself; a vampire cannot appear in a mirror.
Autoscopia's Second Life portraits are built using data from internet-based 'vanity searches' conducted within the Second Life installation. Each name creates a unique outcome composed of 27 'limbs'. Each limb is fed data from websites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter (and other more invasive, though publicly available, sources) etc, with colours, geometry and audio affected by variations in search volume. Data is then re-published via discrete web pages automatically composed through text and images collected during the search. The identity created will thereafter be reincorporated into future search results. Each portrait also 'Tweets' its existence on Twitter, with both the web pages and Tweets looping back into future portraits.
The real-world Autoscopia work installed at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra is a video portrait of the artists, displayed via a wall-mounted, flat-screen television, along with a digital still print. Three video channels (one per collaborator) are combined to form a composite of the artists as a (dis)unified whole.