R. Luke DuBois, "Self-portrait, 1993-2014" (2014)
Self-portrait, 1993-2014 is a data visualization work on paper that pictures a force-directed graph of DuBois’ email since 1993. Presenting what is essentially a “big bang” within his universe of personal and professional emails sent and received over twenty years, the piece realizes the mass and gravity of his relationships with nearly half a million people, as represented by unique email addresses. Galaxies of attraction are caused to form, based on those in constant dialog with one another, or those with choices of language that are more familiar, relaxed or emotional. In this constellation, the central “solar systems” in this map are governed by the five primary addresses that DuBois has used over the years. Identified by handwritten names, each person fits a social cluster that is organized by the sentiments expressed, and their topical interconnectedness, such as that indicated by carbon copy messaging and similarities in vocabulary.
The placement of specific names can be identified alphabetically using an index (available at the front desk) that organizes the information along rows and columns, which are marked along the drawing’s perimeter. While the array of names generated is staggering, there is a degree of intimacy revealed in how DuBois’ email was sorted. Appearing in the drawing are only the names of those who exchanged a minimum of three emails (essentially a primary message, followed by back and forth dialog). The individual names were originally written in pencil, before DuBois scanned and placed them into the final composition.
Production support for this piece was provided by the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University, through a residency made possible by an Art Works grant from the NEA.