Yearbook Revisited is an installation that reinvents the yearbook photo experience to recreate the awkwardness of social interactions based on high school identities. There are two elements are at work. First, the experience of taking a portrait photo, and second the stereotypes prevalent amongst high school students. The audience member’s portraits are taken in a similar manner as a yearbook photograph. The portraits are then randomly assigned a stereotypical high school identity. These identities are then used to group the photos as they are displayed, however, guests are instructed that there is special facial recognition software involved in the sorting process. As participants circulate through the exhibit to find their picture, cliques are automatically formed to create a model for high school interactions.
Yearbook Revisited is an interactive art installation that explores identity and social interactions from within the context of traditional high school stereotypes. Viewers of the exhibit are asked to participate by placing themselves in the scenario of a yearbook photo shoot.
Guests enter the exhibit through an anteroom where a camera, intensely bright lights, a stool, and a backdrop have been staged. A terminal is setup with a prompt to enter a first and last name. After a name is input, participants are instructed to pose for their picture in a typical yearbook manner, by an automated instructional video. Through observation it was determined that the predominant yearbook pose is one in which the body is turned away from the camera, no more than 20º, so that the right shoulder is closest to the lens. The subject’s gaze is turned back toward the camera with their head slightly tilted towards the left shoulder. Once the instruction set has played the system asks the subject, “Are you ready,” and waits for a response. In reality there is no function behind the voice communication, it is actually just a count down that is well timed. At the end of the count down the system states, “I am going to take your picture.” After the photo is taken the participant is then prompted to continue to the next stage of the installation and the system is reset for the next guest.
In the next part of the installationviewers observe the portraits taken in the anteroom being projected on one of four walls in the main room. Each photo is assigned a stereotypical high school social designation or category at random, although the audience is told that there is a special logic at work here. Each wall represents one of four categories: Jock, Prep, Nerd, or Burnout. Prop images are superimposed over the photos that help illustrate and exaggerate these categorizations. The layout for the photos will follow the grid like structure of a yearbook page and cycle with a page turn as more photos are added. A randomly chosen subcategory, of type ‘most likely to’, is associated with every photo to add extra dimension to these groupings. As guests file through the room to find their photo these social categories will begin to take shape in reality amongst the crowd.
3. Identity & Social Interaction
It is often that people cannot help how others perceive their identity. Even though there are many facets that form a person’s identity Yearbook Revisited is designed purposely to reduce people to very simplified terms. This is setup by an illusion of the technology in place powering the installation. Viewers are told that special facial recognition software is used to profile them and place them in the predetermined social categories, but in reality this is a totally random process. As viewers pool themselves into the various cliques created by the exhibit there is an opportunity to observe how people react to the identity determined for them. It can also be seen how people interact with others within their social circle, and how they interact with people from other social circles.
John sauntered into the dim light of the gallery, the day had gone well and he was in high spirits. The first exhibit to catch his eye was Yearbook Revisited. Yearbook Revisited promised to predict his high school identity exactly, by means of complex facial recognition software. John was immediately intrigued. He moved to the entryway where a camera and bright lights where setup. He entered his name into a glowing prompt and then an authoritative voice instructed John on how to pose as it snapped his picture. Bewildered by the bright flash, he stumbled away from the machine and into the next room where he saw portraits of other people from the gallery. He looked around finding his among the Jock category, a smug smile formed. It faded immediately when he read his tag “John: Most Likely to commit date rape”. Confused and enraged he started talking with the other people viewing his wall. They all began to talk about the other walls and how they must have gotten a better result. Subconsciously, a clique is formed and John experiences memories of social awkwardness from his days in high school.