Artist David Datuna has an ongoing series called “Viewpoint of Billions,” in which a large collage is layered over with different optical lenses. But for his newest entry in that series, he’s added a totally different kind of lens: Google Glass.
Portrait of America is the title of the newest piece, and it’s pretty clear why: the work is a gigantic, 12-foot-long American flag, covered with portraits of American luminaries from George Washington to Lady Gaga to Martin Luther King, Jr. to Steve Jobs. But the entire piece is covered with eyeglass lenses of different prescriptions, which can either magnify or distort those images, depending on how you look at them.
The big change from previous installations of the “Viewpoint of Billions” series is the addition of Google Glass, pairs of which are handed out (not permanently!) to guests. When guests wearing the glasses near the flag, they’re presented with a series of videos that play on the Glass’s display. The videos feature the artist asking questions about the nature of democracy and technology and America and whether the turkey really should have been the national bird instead of the bald eagle (note: that last one is a lie, I just wish it were one of the questions). It’s meant to be participatory; the guest is invited the answer the questions if they want. If they do, they’ll be filmed by a series of cameras that are invisibly embedded in the flag itself. Those videos are then uploaded to YouTube (and linked on Datuna’s site).
The idea of adding Google Glass to a piece of art is inherently gimmicky, but that’s not necessarily a bad or even an unwanted thing. Datuna’s work reexamines what it means to be American–to see these important figures and events in different ways, and Google Glass adds an extra layer of complexity to that. On the one hand, you get to see something nobody else is seeing; Google Glass is a very private viewing room. But it also allows interactivity: you become part of the piece, just as much as anyone sitting on the flag behind the lenses.
The exhibit was at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery for only a few days, but it may tour again.