Leonardo Selvaggio

Artist Statement

How is the City your studio? "The City, specifically it's surveillance culture, has been instrumental in inspiring URME Surveillance. With Chicago being the most widely surveilled city in the nation, with over 25,000 networked surveillance cameras, Chicago has been an incredible place for me as maker to think about these things, and how to resist them. But more importantly, its the home of so many wonderful communities. It is these communities that I hope to collaborate with in order to create diverse local platforms of solidarity and resistance. I have so much to still learn from the people of this City."

Featured Artist Portrait by Joe Mazza | Brave Lux Chicago

My work investigates the entanglement of identity with technology, For example, “URME Surveillance” I invite others to wear a photorealistic 3D printed prosthetic of my face in public space. Thus, facial recognition systems attribute the user’s actions as my own. URME Surveillance challenges the wearer to consider their identity in relationship to technology while disrupting surveillance systems through disinformation. My work frames these technologies in a socio-political context that produces public discourse about systems of power.
I tend to think of identity as “data” that can be manipulated, hacked, or even corrupted and I am curious about how this “data” is tied to a larger context of surveillance. One thing my research has made clear to me is that Surveillance values white men over all others. As I response I resist this milky homogenization by trying to hack or destabilize my own privilege to share with others. I want to build community by producing platforms that protect the public from surveillance while also creating spaces for the exploration of identity.
What's Next?
I am very excited to continue a strong exhibition program through the rest of 2015 into 2016. I will be part of an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts in Switzerland, as well part of a permanent exhibition at the Spy Museum in Washington DC. I am currently consulting with the Wende Museum in California on a exhibition on facial recognition they hope to organize for December which I may co-curate. I also plan to expand URME Surveillance by beginning a Micro-grant foundation, in which I can logistically and financially support other artist's work that explore surveillance, identity, and systemic oppression. 
Leonardo Selvaggio is a Chicago based interdisciplinary artist. He has shown work internationally in France and Canada; domestically in New York, Chicago, Florida, and New Mexico. He has been awarded an Albert P. Weisman grant for his work, URME Surveillance and a DCASE IAP Professional Grant to present supporting research.  In 2015, URME Surveillance participated in the Art Souterrain festival in Montreal, the ISEA conference in Vancouver, and the Saint-Etienne Design Biennial in France. URME Surveillance was also adapted for television in an episode of CSI: Cyber titled “Selfie 2.0”. Selvaggio’s arts practice has been featured in notable publications: Hyperallergic, Techcrunch, The Washington Post, CNET, The Verge, and The Creator's Project. He holds a BFA from Rutgers University and an MFA from Columbia College’s Interdisciplinary Arts program.