Virtual Identities
Palazzo Strozzi



Immersion, 2008
Video still
Jessica Hardy playing Tekken: Dark Resurrection, 2008
Courtesy l'artista / the artist

Installation view at CCC Strozzina, Firenze
Photo: Martino Margheri

Immersion, 2008
Video still
Victoria Crowe playing Grand Theft Auto 4, 2008
Courtesy l'artista / the artist

Robbie Cooper (1969, London, UK; lives and works in London and New York, USA) is a photographer and video artist, mostly interested in identity and the media. He was educated in Kenya and the UK, and studied media production at Bournemouth College of Art. Cooper won the Ian Parry Scholarship for young photojournalists, for work on the famine and civil war in Somalia. For the next fourteen years he worked for magazines around the world, including The Sunday Times magazine, Libération, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, L'Espresso, El Pais, The Telegraph, The Independent and Le Monde. In 2002 Cooper embarked on Alter Ego, a long-term project whose photographs have been exhibited in London, Paris, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Berlin, New York and Los Angeles. Alter Ego was published as a book in 2007, by Chris Boot Ltd. In 2007 Cooper gave up photojournalism in favor of video and large format photography. He is particularly interested in using high-resolution video for the simultaneous production of video and stills.

In his work, Robbie Cooper examines the relationship and emotional involvement of the individual enjoying the visual contents that the digital sphere puts at our disposal. In Immersion Cooper dwells on the powerful emotions that are manifested on the faces of children and young people interacting with a screen as they play on the computer or watch a film.  In real communication between two people, facial expressions and gestures are formed directly in the reciprocal interaction. In Cooper's video, however, the expressions on the players' faces do not address a human counterpart. The artist used a special technique whereby the camera is incorporated into the monitor displaying the images that has attracted the attention of the subjects of the work.
The observer's viewpoint must thus deal with an irritating frontal perspective, face to face with the children who are playing, their eyes fixed on the monitor and virtually ignoring the observer. In the science that studies the use and theory of new media, the term "immersion" refers to the mental fusion between the observer and a virtual space around him. In interactive digital worlds, the distinction between reality and representation tends to be erased, engendering profound psychological and emotional identification in the users. Cooper's work creates a dual feedback: the players react intensely to the images they see on the screen, whereas we - the observers - react with our own feelings to their powerfully emotional facial expressions that to us, in turn, are just another image on a screen.


Special project: I AM NEDA
Special project: ME 2.0