Silicone, 25 LED screens
180 x 60 x 41 cm
A hyperrealist sculpture, immobile in a rectangular pedestal, wears a suit of digital screens. Strategically located over features including the mouth, eyes or genitals, each screen is a treasury of body-part images filmed from a diverse cast of models. With a simple swipe, the viewer can change these images, using the suit to shape a new body which looks beyond gender, age or race.
The human body is central to the art of filip custic (Filip Custic, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain, 1993), who uses performance, video and photography to address the interplay of technology and identity. Mirrors and other reflective materials such as metals and glass are recurring features in his portraits, which consistently point to image obsession and egocentrism. Surrealist devices such as repetition and scale change are also common, lending Custic’s work an oniric feel, while his artificialized bodies speak to a present-day shaped by Photoshop, Instagram filters and the unrelenting search for publishable beauty. With pi(x)el, filip custic harnesses technology to sculpt a changeable body, unconstrained by the established norm. “We live in an age of dysmorphia, of not accepting ourselves, of striving to achieve a stereotype,” explains the artist, who feels that now is the right time “to have a conversation about notions of beauty.”
Worn by a hyperrealist sculpture of his muse and fellow artist, Virgen María (María Forqué), Custic’s suit comprises a helmet, choker, bikini and fingernails, with screens supported on a bespoke metal structure. The artist focuses on areas of the body which differentiate us or invite creativity. The choker, for example, references the Adam’s apple, which is much more pronounced in men than women, while the digital fingers reflect contemporary interest in nail art as a form of self-expression.
The images shown on screen are the result of an exhaustive casting process in which Custic set out to express the human body in all its diversity. “I thought it was going to be a lot easier,” acknowledges the artist, who has photographed a wide variety of participants and actively continues his search. Moving away from the idealised bodies of his previous works, pi(x)el embraces wrinkles, spots and scars, focussing on reality to celebrate human uniqueness.
filip custic views pi(x)el as a prototype, the first iteration of a piece he envisages as a wearable artwork. “With technology, the time will come when you can change your avatar so much that it no longer matters if you have a green eye, a lilac eye, pink skin or hair made of fire,” he explains, suggesting that technological advances offer routes past discrimination and division. “I’m very much inspired by the idea that we’ll go beyond physical form and centre on the essence of each individual. That’s what I want to communicate.”
The artwork’s title connects directly with this transhumanist reading. By isolating the letter x, Custic turns ‘pixel’ into ‘piel,’ the Spanish word for skin. Visually, the parentheses suggest a mathematical formula, while the central (x) could be understood to reference the x chromosome, which determines an individual’s biological sex.
The speed of technological change is also contemplated by pi(x)el, an artwork constructed of flat screens. With rollable displays and holograms already a reality, Custic’s screen suit is an ode to one of the devices which has shaped contemporary life. It is a means, as the artist explains, “to view the present with nostalgia as if we were already in the future.”