Virtual Masks evolved out of Pontes’s social media art project Born Nowhere that originated from using Facebook as a platform to crowd-source identities. By digitally modifying a variety of self-portraits, the artist created a diverse cast of fictional personas which she posted on Facebook, inviting fellow users to share their thoughts and interpretations. Informed by these comments, Pontes created and assigned a fictional name, biography and personality traits to these virtual identities. Thereby, each character’s new persona was mediated by what psychoanalysts call ‘projection’: what the viewer reads into the images is reflective of her/his own background, reality, and fantasies.
With the characters’ faces obscured by QR codes and merely visible in fragments, Virtual Masks imbues the previously unconcealed Born Nowhere portraits with a new aesthetic. This results in the work becoming more evidently suggestive of the notion that, in today’s media-saturated society, people increasingly hide behind the façade of their virtual self-representation. By scanning the QR codes, the viewer gains access to the characters’ personal, yet utterly fictional Facebook accounts, so that these codes form a bridge between the physical artwork and its virtual counterpart on the Web.