Building a new Frankenstein

  • St James, Marty (PI)

Project: Other

Project Details


Frankenstein’s Portrait

We have started a research project around the subject of science, technology and the construction of the human figure inspired by Victor Frankenstein’s monster. The project is built on Professor Marty St James’ longstanding interest in new forms of portraiture using the moving image. Central to Marty’s work, are ways in which new technological forms of visual representation have helped us understand new ways of viewing ourselves as human beings, and the use of technology to construct a fragmented portrait made over a period of time. This is evidenced in Marty’s eleven-channel video installation The Swimmer, at London’s National Portrait Gallery collection and
Adagio No.8 shown recently in Taiwan and Dubai, and in his other works. The figure of Frankenstein’s Monster is clearly germane to Marty’s work. Back in 1818 it was possible to breath life into human fragments by physically stitching them together. Two hundred year later the technologies have changed, but science’s capacity to rethink the human remains. In this project we aim to select six representative cities from across the globe, broadly one for each continent: London, New York, Beijing, Sydney, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, and potentially Phoenix, Arizona. With each of these cities we aim to collect human fragments using social media from which we’ll construct a series of demographically and statistically representative ‘monsters’, each of which will be shown locally and internationally, including the Streaming Museum in New York City. Each Monster will comprise of a face and upper body made of component parts: eyes, ears, noses, mouth etc., etc. As individuals contribute their own fragments, so the changeling monster grows, each shaped by geography, demography of respective locations.

So much of our visual impression of Frankenstein's Monster is shaped by Hollywood films, in particular Boris Karloff’s Monster of 1935. In this project we both return to the spirit of Mary Shelley’s original novel and look too at how modern science might now undertake Victor Frankenstein’s project.

The images for this project will be constructed using a technical application made by colleagues at Ravensborne College of Art in London. It will be screened world-wide via the Streaming Museum. We aim develop this project over the next three years and welcome your thoughts as a potential collaborator.

Prof. Marty St James University of Hertfordshire © 2014

Layman's description

Building a New Frankenstein - a celebration of the bi centenary of Mary Shelley's enduring tale

Effective start/end date3/11/141/01/18


  • NX Arts in general
  • Art and Science, Portraiture
  • N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
  • Video, digital, Moving image
  • Q Science (General)
  • Art and Science


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