About Theodore Watson 

Theodore Watson is an artist, designer and experimenter whose work is born out of the curiosity and excitement of designing experiences that come alive and invite people to play. Theodore's work ranges from creating new tools for artistic expression, experimental musical systems, to immersive, interactive environments with full-body interaction. His recent work includes the Eyewriter, an eye controlled drawing tool, Graffiti Research Lab's Laser Tag, laser graffiti system and Funky Forest, an immersive interactive ecosystem for young children. Theodore works together with Zachary Lieberman and Arturo Castro on openFrameworks, which is an open source library for writing creative code in C++.

Theodore Watson's work has been shown at MoMA, Tate Modern, Ars Electronica, The Sundance Film Festival, Res Fest, REMF, Cinekid,Montevideo, OFFF, SHIFT, ICHIM, The Creators Series, Deitch Projects,Eyebeam, Pixel Gallery, Museum N8 Amsterdam. In 2010 the Eyewriter project won the Future Everything award and the Design of The Yearaward for the interactive category.

Theodore Watson is founder of two interactive studios Design I/O LLC and YesYesNo LLC.


Theo Watson is a British artist and programmer. His art work includes interactive video, large-scale public projections,computer vision projects, and interactive sound recordings. He was born in 1981, London, United Kingdom.

Type of Interactivity
The type of interactivity that Theodore Watson uses the most is Cause and Effect because most of his installations and art pieces require people to interact physically with it for something to happen.


Portrait Machine 2009

Portrait Machine is an interactive photography installation that visualizes the connections between visitors. It makes these connections based on a number of features, such as clothing choice, hair color, facial expression, and composition within the frame. It presents both similarities and differences in these characteristics, remdining us of our connectedness and uniqueness, creating strong visual patterns and playful juxtapositions. Portrait Machine was a collaboration with Kyle McDonald, it was produced by Nina Meilof for CBK Amsterdam.

Critical Analysis

Initial Reaction


My first impression of this work was that it was very interesting how he used photography as as his choice of interactivity. I really liked how he juxtaposition the photos so that it showed similarity yet it still contrasted with each other. In addition, I thought that it was really cool how anyone could participate in this installation and how there was no limits and restrictions. This installation would definitely be something I would participate in and strive to recreate or do in the future.

What this work brings to my mind is how flawed our concept of technology is sometimes. Yes technology sometimes does create a barrier between individuals and cuts off communication but people seem to forget that technology is what keeps everyone connected. How people use to learn and share ideas with one another without having to be right next to each other. For example just like this installation, it shows how people can be connected through technology though pictures.

Emotions that evoke this piece of work evokes are feelings of happiness, curiosity, and unity. It evokes the feeling of happiness because it just gives a sense of family and friendship when I see people taking photos together and creating memories. Not to mention in most photos people were smiling and were genuinely happy which transfers through the photo. This piece also evokes the feeling of curiosity because even if they seem happy or sad in a photo, the viewers actually do not know what they are feeling or who they really are. So i find that a very interesting concept to represent a stranger through a photo. Lastly it evokes the feeling of unity, which is very similar to happiness, is because in people get together and it shows the similarity and differences of each individual. However even thought everyone is different everyone is still the same in some way.

Questions I have about this installation is, is someone taking the pictures or does the camera automatically take a photo within a time frame. In addition, I wonder why Watson chose to do this type of installation and how he programmed it so it would distinguish between people and put it together or was it done by hand.

The connections I can make between this work and Watsons work is that we both like to use digital means. In addition, I try to make my art very relatable and I feel like most of Watson art people can relate to it.

Analysis & Interpretation

The elements and principles that are incorporated in this installation was interactivity, heterogeneity, hybridization, temporality, and narrative. Watson uses the element interactivity because that is the whole point of the installation. People are required to interact with it for it to be art. For heterogeneity, Watson uses this because the camera takes pictures of individual people and then he uses those photos and juxtaposes them with other people's photos to create a whole new photo. Same thing with hybridization he takes different parts of pictures and puts them together to create a new one. Watson uses temporality because his artwork shows how the passage of time can change ones interpretation of an artwork, when he changes the juxtaposition of the photos it changes the interpretation. Lastly, Watson uses narrative because I believe that each individual photo tells a story through their choice of hairstyle, clothes and etc. In addition when he puts individual photos together with the others it changes the whole narrative, for example the image of a sweet old woman giving the middle finger.

What I think the subject or theme of this work is a mixture of the use of technology to connect people and how people are different yet the similar at the same time. I think these two are the subject or theme of this work because in this installation he uses technology to demonstrate the connections that can be made with people. In addition with juxtaposing different people with different looks, personalities, ages, and ethnicities it shows how different people are similar or similar people can be different.

In my opinion, I feel like Watson created this work just to show people how technology can actually help connect people and how people sometimes analyze others too hard when they probably are very similar to each other. Additionally, I think Watson just really wanted an installation that was fun and connected people together.

I feel like Watson's view of the world is very positive since is work has really good messages and most of his work brings people together and brings happiness. I feel like his view on the world is very different from mine because I am very affected by other things. It is very easy for me to be swayed and not stay true to one certain thing. For example one day I might be very positive about the world while the next I could be very negative, it all depends on how  am feeling and the time.

Consideration of Cultural Context

A social event that might have influenced Watson in this work might have been the controversy of technology and its advancement. A lot of people seem to deem technology as something bad and something that is destroying connection. However if you look at it from a different light, technology can be used to stay connected when people are far away, with means via Facebook, Skype and etc. There are also many ways technology has connected humans, like twitter, blogs, youtube, to help people learn and share ideas. I think what Watson might have wanted to say about this topic was that its the way you use technology is what defines it. Through this installation you can see the many connections people can make through it.

In addition I feel like Watson may have been influenced by other artists who did a take on technology for example the artist Bansky. In Banksy's graffiti, he did a piece of lovers who were in a loving hug however both of them were on their phones instead of paying attention to each other, which was called Cellphone Lovers.

Expression of Aesthetic Judgement

In my opinion, I believe that Watson has very effectively used the elements to achieve what he intended. Watson has used many elements like juxtaposition, interactivity, hybridization to fully communicate his message to the viewers. I think the way he used juxtaposition to show the differences and similarities of people was great. In addition with the use of hybridization and heterogeneity to create a whole artwork from different individuals was very smart because it emphasized the juxtaposition and also created a deeper meaning behind his piece. Therefore in my opinion, I think everything works.

My point of view has not shifted from my initial reaction. I still think this installation is very different and very unique. It is something I have never came across before where people are actually so involved in it and have their pictures taken. Additionally I think it is very cool how people are willing to take photos and leave their photos with some random stranger.

I feel like the Watson cannot evoke emotions through this installation because he cannot choose because its peoples photos, so they decide which emotion they would want to show to the camera. Therefore the way Watson evokes emotion through this piece is by the people who interact and participate in this installation.

Ongoing Reflection

I feel that this work is successful because it fully portrayed a meaning or theme. In addition, since this was an interactive installation I feel like it would be successful if many people participated in it, which they did. In the photos above you can tell many different people participated in it, people from different ages, ethnicity, genders and etc. Therefore I believe that Watson work has been very successful because he was able to capture the many differences of many different people and he was able to use them to contrast the similarities.

In my perspective, I do not think this installation needs to be improved but I think it would be interesting to see this installation be somehow incorporated with video and sound. For the video maybe it would capture like a moment and then overlap it with someone else's video. For sound, it would be cool if the juxtaposition of the photos of people had a certain individual music or sound in the background which comes together with others to create like a harmony, to show the unity of people even if they are different.

I do not think i would alter this work even if it were for a different audience because I feel like this installation has no restrictions since people who participated in it was of different ages, genders and ethnicities. This installation was literally limitless, you could do anything in it. In addition, I would not send a different message because I think this is a really good message for people to hear because a lot people think that everyone is different when in reality everyone is really similar. So people should get along more and be more at peace with each other.


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