Tim Hawkinson, “Emoter” (2000): Hawkinson conjures sophisticated automated systems out of crude mechanical devices usually jerry-rigged from simple everyday materials. This facial “portrait” contraption consists of altered ink-jet print, CRT monitor, stepladder, and mechanical components. Random patterns of light from a television determine the resulting facial expressions.
In these finely-crafted installations, Hawkinson isn’t simply playfully tinkering with materials, but hoping to work out philosophical issues of identity. Among other things, this project harks back to explorations of physiognomy, expression, gesture, figuration, and self-portraiture in art practice. “Emoter” draws parallels between outward appearance and the firing of electrical impulses in the brain that signal expressions, which relates to broader issues of the ontic versus the ontological conceptions of identity (self-knowledge versus being). For those interested, Tim Hawkinson discusses his projects in the PBS art documentary series, Art21.