Virtual Mask has its origins in Pontes’ social media art project Born Nowhere. Created with the intention of using Facebook as a platform to crowdsource identities, Born Nowhere explored new forms of social behavior. The project also examined the shifting framework of identification that has become characteristic of the contemporary digital age. By artificially modifying a variety of self-portraits, Pontes constructed a diverse cast of fictional personas and brought them to life on Facebook. The artist invited fellow Facebook users to share their thoughts and interpretations about the characters. Informed by the users’ comments, Pontes developed fictional names, biographies, and personalities, assigning one to each virtual identity.
In this latest work, Pontes explores the use of QR codes as protectors of the private, hidden identities individuals create using social media platforms. Virtual Mask infuses the exposed Born Nowhere portraits with a new aesthetic, and the result is a work that more clearly evidences the notion of people’s need to hide behind their virtual self-representations in today’s media-saturated society. The portraits from Born Nowhere gain new meaning as they no longer act solely as the display of a finished piece but are now the stage for living artwork. By incorporating interactive online platforms in the process of creation, Pontes works towards achieving a better understanding of the construction of art in the era of social media, while encouraging participants and viewers to develop a critical view of the medium and its effects on our lives.