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ID 2.100.

Artist Blog by Maxim Zmeyev

Hello everyone!

In the second part of my blog, I want to present to you my second major project related to video games. I created this project in France, where I moved due to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. I now live in Marseille and have the status of an asylum seeker, which makes this project very personal to me.


Virtual photography

Photomaton photo booth

The project “ID 2.100.” (Identity 2.100.) is a series of photographs taken in an ePhoto booth to obtain an official French document and residence permit, called ‘titre de séjour’. To create the project, the facial recognition system was ‘tricked’ by using portraits of avatars created in popular multiplayer video games in place of real people. The avatar portraits featured in the project were created by me. The visual references for these portraits were documentary photographs of real refugees taken by photojournalists around the world and published in the media in 2022 and 2023.

Before entering a new gaming world, each person creates their avatar - how they will look and how other players will perceive them. In most multiplayer video games and metaverses, there are well-developed character editors where each player can finely tune and create their avatar, from rough pixels in Minecraft to photorealistic images in GTA V. After creating their character, the game (or metaverse) allows the person to enter its world, where they begin to survive, have fun, earn money, communicate, and much more. In our physical world, your ‘avatar’ becomes your photograph on documents, allowing you to become a member of society - obtaining rights to reside, travel, work, receive medical care, etc.

Like many people in 2022, I became a refugee (according to the UN, the number of refugees exceeded 100 million in 2022, including those fleeing the war Russia unleashed against Ukraine), and since November 2022, I have been living in France. Now, like many refugees and forced immigrants, I am going through the process of creating my Avatar here - obtaining new documents. When I take a photo for my residence permit at the Photomaton photo booth, the digital portrait is automatically entered into the French database, it is given an original digital code and my face becomes a document.

In my project “ID 2.100.”, I draw a visual parallel between the acquisition of identity and subjectivity in the physical and digital worlds, raising the question of the individual and the State, as well as the control exercised by society. The project also addresses the question of the materiality and authenticity of virtual photography. This project opens up a discourse on contemporary portraiture - what is a portrait of a person now? Is it their material embodiment in a document photograph or an avatar in a digital environment? How are we seen and perceived by thousands of users of meta-versions, multiplayer games and social networks?

Each picture was created by taking an in-game photo of the character's avatar in the in-game character creation editor, then photographing the resulting photo in the Photomaton photo booth in the ‘Photo for Residence Permit’ mode, printing the result in the photo booth, then scanning and obtaining a digital copy. The process of creating each photo symbolizes the complex bureaucratic process that every refugee or migrant goes through. In addition, ‘visual artefacts’ appear at different stages of the photo's creation, which are a metaphor for the personal changes of each person forced to seek asylum in another country.

The sequence of photos in the gallery is based on the release dates of the video games in which the avatars were created.

The project consists of 100 photos.

Maxim Zmeyev is part of »Guest Room: Varun Gupta & Arpan Mukherjee«.

Check out his Artist Feature “Type 1.5.11.”.