Assignment 4: Digital identities 1

Kusudama 1_600px

Click here for information about preliminary planning for this assignment.

For this project, I wanted to communicate something about my own digital identity.  This autobiographical project is intended to show the fragmentary and secretive nature of my online persona.

My online interactions are basically limited to a very private Facebook profile, my OCA blog, and a succession of professional accomplishments in the field of geology (e.g., peer-reviewed publications).  I am otherwise invisible.  And even if you do know me, my personal and professional information are not easy to match-up.  I exist online as a succession of isolated, disparate fragments, none of which, come close to revealing my true identity.

To symbolise this, I decided to construct a series of kusudama (modular origami balls), which take as their starting point, photographs of me and my interests (specifically geology and photography, since these form the basis for the majority of my online interactions).  Each kusudama will reveal something different about me, however, even when the series is seen in its entirety, the viewer will be unable to form a comprehensive picture of who I am.  My kusudama self-portraits will be abstract and enigmatic, only capable of showing disconnected elements of the whole.

In addition to the above, I wanted to work with kusudama because the completed forms remind me very strongly of microfossils (something that I have worked with extensively in a professional capacity).  Furthermore, the process of making the kusudama, requires the origamist to be incredibly accurate and precise; essentially something of a perfectionist.  These are skills/personality traits that were crucial to my previous career as a geochemist.  Consequently, the kusudama themselves, also provide the viewer with additional clues as to my identity/personality.

List of practitioners that I have looked at in relation to this assignment

Alma Haser (Cosmic Surgery)

Giacomo Favilla and Francesca Lombardi (One of Us; Visible)

Luke Jerram (Glass Microbiology)

Giacoma Brunelli (Self portraits)

Polina Washington (Bloom)


Angier, R. (2007) ‘Self-portrait/No face’ In: Train your Gaze. London: AVA Publishing. pp. 10-27.

Lukasheva, E. (2016) Modular Origami Kaleidoscope. New Origami publishing.

Mukerji, M. (2011) Exquisite modular Origami [Kindle edition]. From: (Accessed on 28 February 2017).

Brief self-evaluation

Overall, I am fairly pleased with my progress on this project and I believe that, when it is completed, it should be able to communicate what I want it to in an interesting way.  My main challenge up to this point, has been learning to fold the kusudama.  I haven’t done any origami since I was a child, so this has proved to be a steep learning curve for me, but on the whole, it was not as bad as I had feared.

With regards to the assessment criteria, I believe that I have met these as follows:

Demonstration of technical and visual skills: The kusudama presented here is well photographed (e.g., carefully chosen focal length and lighting).

Quality of outcome: The kusudama is visually striking and the final photograph was improved by careful use of post-production.

Demonstration of creativity: Unusual concept, well executed.

Context: Evidence of research, both specific (e.g., other artists using origami) and more general (e.g., other artists making unusual (self-)portraits).

Plans for going forward

  1. Make more kusudama (even the most simple one takes in excess of 12 hours though, so this is quite a labour-intensive process).
  2. Use more geological images and also use some of my recent cyanotypes. I have wondered about using one of my geological publications, so that tantalising key words might appear in the finished form.

Questions going forward

  1. Is this a reasonable approach to the themes my work is attempting to address (or have I completely lost the plot here)?
  2. How many kusudama would make a reasonable series?
  3. Is the solid black background the best way to present the kusudama? Would another type of presentation work better (e.g., I had wondered about setting them up as if they were part of a museum mineralogical collection – standing on a small plinth, harshly lit from above with a spot light)?
  4. What would be the best way to present the finished photographs?  Individual prints?  A book?  An installation (how would this work at assessment though)!?


Appendix 1: Experimentation with focal lengths and background

Focal lengths

Kusudama 1_Focal lengths

Changing the focal length of the lens, had a considerable effect on the kusudama photographs.  The shorter focal lengths reveal more of the form of the completed object, whilst the longer focal lengths capture more of the complexity (due to the foreshortening effect of the lens).  Upon reflection, I prefer the images taken at the longer focal lengths.


Kusudama 1_Backgrounds

Black versus white.  Personally, I prefer the black background because the kusudama really seems to ‘pop’ on the black.  I also made the decision to replace the background with a solid black because this is how I would make plates for microfossils in a scientific publication.