Identity Tree (2011)

See your online identity rendered as a plant in this commisioned museum piece

Solo work. I wrote the software in Javascript and did all the fabrication.

Your online identity has its roots in the many online services that deal in data about you. You seek to control your online identity… but your Facebook friends, Google’s algorithms, and the contents of a thousand databases define you just as strongly.

The Identity Tree draws these contradictory online selves together within its branches. Choose to grow or prune this tree, but ultimately the shape of this tree lies beyond your control.

The Identity Tree was an art installation commissioned for the opening of the Leonardo Museum in Salt Lake City, UT. Similar to the Cloud Mirror this installation required guests to log in with a nearby iPad and grant permissions to a Facebook app. The app would then download images of the guest and facts about their life, arrange them into a tree structure, and project them on a giant leaf.

Can you imagine that there was once a time when people would indiscriminately grant Facebook permissions to a random art piece in a public place? How the world has changed.

Under the hood

This system was a complete mess. It was an experiment in generating visual art in the browser, at a time when the browser was not ready. I used P5js, which I remember being a thoroughly frustrating experience. This was not the fault of P5js, but rather with the relative immaturity of browsers at the time.

Nowadays, I wouldn’t think twice about generating 2d or even 3d art in the browser!

project image