Lais Pontes – Alumna GS 11 – Brazil
What have you been doing since graduating from ICP’s General Studies Program?
Following my graduation from the ICP in 2011, I was invited to a number of exhibitions – including Paraty em Foco, and the Filter Photo Festival in Chicago – to display and present the work (Born Nowhere) that I had started while undertaking the General Studies Program. In 2013, I enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) where I obtained an MFA in Photography last year. Currently, I live and work in London, and have had my work included in various exhibitions throughout Europe (as well as the US), such as the Noorderlicht Photofestival in The Netherlands; From Self Portrait to Staging the Self at the Brandts Museum in Denmark; and FotoFest Biennial in Houston.
What impact did the experience of going through the program have for you?
ICP has had a fundamental role in my education as an artist. It was while pursuing my studies there that I was introduced to a variety of different concepts that still inform my work today. The ability to learn from, and work closely with, a very diverse faculty with different skill sets and research interests exposed me to many ideas that shaped and influenced a critical perspective on the medium. I have also been given the freedom and support to develop my own ideas.
What is the relationship between your current activities/projects and your experience in the program?
My current research interest – that is, the exploration of identity construction in the age of social media – already began to develop while I was still at ICP, even though I was not aware of this at the time. It was only in the course of the MFA program that my previous interest in social media art projects grew stronger and became more focused, so that I felt the need to dig into this subject matter more deeply and explore it on multiple registers.
Since social media has become an integral part of people’s everyday lives – opening up new modes of interaction via platforms like Facebook or Instagram – it inevitably has a tremendous influence on our cultural behaviour, and it is this which I’m currently investigating in my art. In my three social media art projects – Born Nowhere, Born Now Here and The Girls on Instagram – which I started to create while still in New York, I concentrate on examining the relationship between an individual’s on- and offline existence. In the process of creation, I use my own body and life to stage experiments, and appropriate various social media platforms (FB/Instagram), through which viewers can engage and directly interact with my work.
Born Nowhere, Born Now Here and The Girls on Instagram revolve around fictional characters that originated from self-portraits and received personality traits and biographies by crowd-sourcing their identities on FB. Throughout my projects, these characters transcend their online existence either through real-life performances or through taking their photographs on journeys in the physical world, which are documented on their ‘personal’ Facebook accounts or on Instagram. As a result, my work does not only exist in the physical space of a gallery – its ever-changing nature is observable online around the clock and from anywhere in the world.
What would you say to prospective students of the program?
What I am going to say might sound like a cliché, but it is how I feel: Study as much and as hard as possible, and don’t be afraid to fail. You are there to learn, so listen carefully to the critiques and you will improve and always get better. Take your time before making up your mind.