Christopher Houltberg, Profile Cube
“Houltberg’s installation illuminates the complicated relationship between people and computers, provoking the unsettling question: who is in charge?”
Profile Cube addresses the complex and often mysterious relationship between our online profiles and our individual identities. Our experience of the Internet is becoming more intuitive—or, according to a Google video about personalized search technology, it is “helping you find the information that is relevant to you.” In truth, our interaction with the web has shifted from the consumption of information to the act of being consumed as data. Companies create dynamic pro¬files of us based on our online interactions. From personalized search results to advertisements, our profiles are revealed in small increments. At times these predictions are hilariously absurd, while others are so incredibly accurate that they invade our privacy. Through this process our online presence, preferences, and engagement are filtered back to us. In essence, we find who we are through projections of taste, popularity, and the invested interest of these consumer platforms.
Profile Cube creates a physical experience to parody our relationship with these profiles. The installation begins with an illuminated touch screen that simply says “Start.” The allure of this invitation creates the beginning of an in-take process. Participants answer questions ranging from personal preferences to opinions of pop culture. Once the in-take form is completed, they receive a personal identification code (PIC), which allows them private access to the results cube. This structure is made from walls inscribed with invisible descriptive words. Once inside, the user’s profile is built as one word is illuminated at a time. The culmination of words projected on all surfaces reveals who the cube believes you are. Rather than expressing your profile through advertisements, the cube reveals your profile with language.
By recontextualizing a process common to contemporary life (use of the Internet), I am interested in the personal constructs formed as a result of these projections. Rather than broadening our understanding of the world, “personalized web experiences” reinforce the constructs that divide people and perpetuate ideologies, ultimately isolating us within our desires.
I explore large systems of influence in our culture, such as retail stores, social media websites, and web-based search engines. We experience these systems in private environments (our homes) as well as more public spaces (at work, or within the community where we live). We have instant and perpetual access to them through the devices we carry in our pockets. The ubiquity of these platforms creates a psychological presence in our lives; they become our cube of space that consumes us rather than vice versa. The boundaries that define where these commercial environments begin and end are blurred.
Like these systems, I create new structures and alternative constructs that take the form of the space they inhabit. Through appropriation, research, and manipulation, I recontextualize these mass-consumed interfaces to analyze their use and presence in my own life, but also to critically consider how they are changing our world.
b. 1980, Salina, Kansas
works in Minneapolis, Minnesota
mentor: Jeff Crouse
Christopher Houltberg is a Minneapolis-based artist who works in a wide range of media including: photography, graphic/information/environmental design, economics, and behavioral science. With over 9 years of experience as a graphic designer, Houltberg’s approach to making art is heavily influenced by the process of design and architecture and can be characterized as structured and methodical. Houltberg received his MFA in Visual Art at the Art Institute of Boston and is currently an Assistant Professor of Art at Augsburg College.