Selfies Re-imagined: OOMO at ESMoA

Nicole Maloney’s OOMO Cube asks the world to stand in awe of one another instead of in judgment.

By Maureen Kingsley


Capture of the OOMO livestream on YouTube, June 22, 2020, at 10:18am PST.

Walk by ESMoA on Main Street this month and keep alert for the visually striking digital cube sculpture on display in its lobby. Experience 26: OOMO, which stands for “out of many, one” (the English translation of the Latin e pluribus unum), is a unique work by artist and photographer Nicole Maloney that features constantly changing panels displaying real human faces uploaded from participants’ selfies—including yours, should you choose to contribute.

“This project is a worldwide campaign based on human oneness,” Maloney explains of her piece, which makes beautiful and interesting dynamic images from human faces. The OOMO cube “rethinks the phenomenon of selfies in a positive way,” Maloney says, by portraying each one as part of an evolving whole. “It asks the world to stand in awe, rather than in judgment, of one another,” she adds.

OOMO at ESMoA is an interactive, digital update of Maloney’s original OOMO cube installation in Downtown Los Angeles in 2014, which was analog in nature and featured a finite number of human-face images. “When I originally photographed the analog OOMO, I wanted to photograph every face on the planet,” Maloney says. That goal, of course, was a bit out of reach, so Maloney realized she’d have to “shift course and go virtual.”

In the digital OOMO update on display at ESMoA, uploaded selfies from all over the world appear on one side of the cube, then dissolve into seven pieces that are each blended into the next selfie. And on and on ad infinitum. (Upload your selfie to me.oomocube.com and be part of the work!)

Maloney says she is humbled by the role of technology in art to bring humans together. While she acknowledges technology can both connect and divide, her digital OOMO cube succeeds in inspiring awe in the viewer and a sense of the oneness of humanity. The message is powerful and timely during a time of great social and political division.

Self-portrait of Nicole Maloney

Born in South Bend, Indiana and later migrating to California, Maloney has had a nearly lifelong interest in photography and was already winning high-school photography contests in her teens. She credits the experience of being bullied in school and the insights of her wise, empathetic mother with building her into the adult she has become—someone who reveres the diversity of humanity and looks for shared experience and common ground. “We humans are 99.999 percent similar to each other,” she says. “Our differences are to be celebrated in the larger sense of the same.”

Maloney’s communications studies at UCLA, subsequent employment with SONY, and involvement with start-ups directly inform her art as well, having provided her additional experience forging interpersonal connections and working with digital video technology.

Maloney urges readers to directly participate in Experience 26: OOMO by visiting its website, uploading a selfie, and watching the fascinating results. Then, “share the link with family and friends,” Maloney says. “And if you can, get out to ESMoA, look at the sculpture, walk around it.”

Online, the constantly changing piece is live-streamed here.

“This is a poetic symbolization of a life,” Maloney says.

Experience 26: OOMO is on display in ESMoA’s entrance foyer through September 26, 2020. ESMoA is located at 208 Main Street in El Segundo. The OOMO livestream is viewable at here. Upload your selfie and become part of OOMO here.


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