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Viewpoint of Billions: Portrait of America

Mixed Media

Editorial Review

Portrait Gallery presents ‘Portraits of Billions’

Artist David Datuna’s interactive flag sculpture uses Google Glass technology to engage its audience.

By Michael O’Sullivan
Friday, February 14, 2014

The National Portrait Gallery’s lineup of Presidents’ Day activities range from the serious to the silly. Contrast a lecture on presidential portraiture with an appearance by the Washington Nationals’ Racing Presidents. Upstairs in the museum’s Great Hall, you’ll find what sounds like another mashup: An interactive installation that pairs George Washington with Lady Gaga.

Titled “Viewpoint of Billions,” the sculpture by artist David Datuna looks, from a distance, like an American flag. As you draw near, however, you’ll notice that its 12--foot surface is covered with a lattice of prescription lenses that either magnify or shrink portraits of historical and pop--culture figures. Pop on one of several pairs of Google Glass eyewear that the tech giant has donated to the project, and your proximity to the art will activate a series of short videos that invite you to respond to questions such as “What would you do if you were president?”

Of course, you’re free to simply stand back and gawk. This is America. But Datuna hopes visitors will engage in a conversation about democracy and power. If you opt in to the gimmick, your responses ---- whether profound or preposterous ---- will be captured on hidden cameras, to be archived for posterity at www.datuna.com.