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Video artist Lincoln Schatz is known for his dynamic, video-based portraits. His latest work captures Washington power brokers, including Sandra Day O'Connor, Karl Rove and Cokie Roberts, as they discuss their legacies and aspirations. Using special software, these "generative portraits" shift and re-combine, creating continuously evolving representations. We talk with Schatz about his work and the technology that drives it.
Artist Lincoln Schatz talks about the methodology and memorable moments behind "The Network," an innovative collection of video interviews currently on display at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. Schatz recalls the variety of conversations captured on screen, many with common themes of honor, family and public service. For example, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor chose to focus her interview on a surprising topic--her wedding. In another interview, Republican strategist Karl Rove and White House press secretary Jay Carney each chose to discuss their experiences on Sept. 11.
"What came out of a lot of the interviews was this humbleness, this intelligence, these ideas of duty, service and honor, which outside the Beltway are really the fodder for irony, but inside the Beltway are really kind of the core tenets of what motivates and drives a lot of the people in the project to do what they do," says Schatz.
The installation captures 89 Washington power brokers, including notable figures such as Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Eric Cantor. Software constantly recombines pieces of portraits, so viewers rarely see the same part twice. The portrait runs without identifying speakers, which is intended to draw viewers to their words and facial expressions without preconceived bias.