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Unknown Sitter

VerticalCrypto Art Unveils Unknown Sitter by Operator

Erica Silverman

27 October 2022

From October 5 through 15, experiential artist duo Ania Catherine and Dejha Ti, known simply as Operator, partnered with VerticalCrypto Art to auction the final installment of their “Privacy Portraits” collection, titled “Unknown Sitter.” The collection recently debuted at VerticalCrypto Art’s inaugural and immersive three-day art, fashion, and music festival, Proof of People, in London in July. Drawn from Operator’s 2021 Lumen Prize-winning project in art and technology—titled, “I’d rather be in a dark silence than”—”Unknown Sitter” explores the delicate dance between confidentiality and transparency in metaverse culture and NFT technology. 

The Berlin-based team is known for their grand, conceptual artworks, approaching art and technology with a graceful and nuanced hand. Catherine draws directly from her vast experience as a choreographer, performance artist, and gender scholar, while Ti brings full circle her background as an immersive artist and HCI technologist. With each new creation, the artists immerse audiences in physical and emotional states of reflection, awakening, and metamorphosis.

Unknown Sitter - Operator

Courtesy of Operator and VerticalCrypto Art.

Unknown Sitter

“Unknown Sitter,” 2022, by Operator. courtesy of Operator and VerticalCrypto Art.

“Unknown Sitter” derives its title from the historical traditions of portraiture in which an unidentifiable subject was known as an “unknown sitter.” During the Proof of People festival, Operator staged a performance installation and used analog algorithms to abstract the portraits of 67 visiting collectors into poetic, avant-garde polaroids. The resulting works of monochromatic art are both compelling and haunting; faces of participants are duplicated and rearranged, eyes magnified, mouths erased, human expressions made alien and enigmatic—a search for soul transpires. 

In the artist’s process, an atypical polaroid was developed in which there is no visible subject. It is an unidentifiable, invisible, “portrait of absence.” Upon auction, the collector of “Unknown Sitter” received the physical polaroid, an NFT in the form of a digital scan, and became the sole owner of a truly mysterious work of art. The unique photo is intimately tied to both the past and the present—it joins many portraits throughout history in which the sitter’s identity was lost, taken during a significant moment in the meeting of art, technology, and humanity. 

Unknown Sitter - Operator

Unknown sitter, courtesy of Operator and VerticalCrypto Art.

Unknown Sitter - Operator

Unknown Sitter, courtesy of Operator and VerticalCrypto Art.

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THE WINTER EXPERIENCE ISSUE
2023

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