Every parent today has to worry about the whole other life their child is living on social networks. What private information will they share? Are they posting photos (or is a friend posting photos of them?). What mistakes should they be free to make publicly, recorded for the whole Internet to see forever?
In turn, many loving parents strictly limit access or set up tricky spy accounts. But Luke Jerram, a sculptor and visual researcher, dealt with his anxiety in a different way. He brought his daughter Maya to platform 1 of the Bristol Temple Meads Train Station, and then he left her all alone to fend for herself.
“We’ve had a few concerned members of the public contacting the train guard about seeing a young school girl standing alone at the end of the platform,” Jerram tells Co.Design. “During the day, when there are loads of people around, she blends into the crowd. At night, though, she looks really vulnerable, out of place and alone.”
His platform-dwelling daughter, of course, is a 3-D scanned model of the original (built with his wife and daughter’s permission–the latter of whom couldn’t be more proud of the project). The virtual Maya is an incredible creation, constructed from waterjet-cut aluminum squares that were assembled into cubes, then colored by applying over 5,000 stickers. Up close, the statue is obviously pixelated. But from a distance, much like a Seurat, Maya can look strikingly real.
The effect really is quite haunting. With such photorealistic color and perfectly rendered proportions, every lazy part of your brain sees a human in the scene. But the higher cognitive functions grate on that conclusion, overriding instinct and screaming “that’s not really a girl!” By simply looking at Maya, you’re sucked into a very powerful, guttural debate over the nature of reality, and whether the digital world is as real as the analog one.
“The two worlds are blurring, and it’s difficult to assess where we are at any given time,” Jerram writes. “The fact that some people are committing suicide due to bullying on Twitter and Facebook says a lot about this blurring of lives.”