George Clooney danced with 10 slightly giddy women. LeBron James played basketball—using his own avatar—on an Xbox. David Chang and four friends got monumentally, rip-roaringly, take-your-shirt-off drunk.

Above them, 24 digital cameras captured every dip, dunk and sip, funneling the images into whirring computers, which in turn dissected every frame, pulling them apart like silk strands and reweaving them into a multi-layered, constantly changing video portrait gallery.
Commissioned by the Hearst Corporation in honor of Esquire magazine’s 75th anniversary, the Cube project (named for the 10-foot-by-10-foot box in which each subject is filmed) is the brainchild of Chicago artist Lincoln Schatz. His custom software releases the one-hour videos from the constraints of chronology or stasis, assuring viewers a non-linear, endlessly new experience—every time Clooney bends over a woman’s hand, or Chang lifts a beer to his lips.

Schatz talks extensively to each subject—there will eventually be 20 or 22, bold-faced and otherwise, all chosen for their potential to influence the new century—before they arrive at the Cube, plotting their time under the cameras. The idea, explains Schatz, is to capture a persona that’s been carefully, consciously decided upon. “Every day we make decisions about how we’re going to transmit who we are,” he says. “These portraits are self-selecting: People go into the Cube and do what they do.”

The astonishing result (esquire.com/blog/cube/), which is on display through September in the Hearst building in New York, is more than an aggressively non-traditional approach to portraiture. It’s also an innovative—even revolutionary—celebration of the individual.
FRAMELESS

Lincoln Schatz (right) created his video portrait gallery by filming his subjects, including George Clooney dancing and Marc Jacobs with his yoga instructor, in a box. “Every day we make decisions about how we’re going to transmit who we are. These portraits are self-selecting: People go into the Cube and do what they do.”

By Jessica Reaves

Chicago Tribune Magazine | September 21, 2008

© 2008 Chicago Tribune