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Thoughts about xeroxing your face

A few days ago I xeroxed my face on our copier at work. The scanning bed was left open, and was just begging for something fun to be done.

Xerox machine at Tribune Content Agency and Chicago Magazine
The copier machine at Tribune Content Agency and Chicago Magazine

I did one copy of my face, then I grabbed a coworker and we each did one. Decades ago, this was classic way of having fun in the office. And now, we continue to have copy machines in the office, yet it seems people don’t really do it as much anymore.

Why don’t people do Xerox selfies anymore?

  • Maybe Xerox selfies are passé.
  • Maybe we have gotten used to having copiers.
  • Most likely, it’s because we just don’t make copies as much anymore. That part of the copier machine has gone forgotten. Instead we just print stuff from our computer.
  • Employers required logins and restricted amount of copies permitted. (submitted by @ItsAMajorPlus)

Putting your face against the glass, hitting that copy button. Seeing the instant print. So much fun.

Two self-portraits using xerox machine, January 15, 2020

Scanning vs. Xeroxing

And now, many office copiers have the ability to scan and email. The resulting digital PDF scan is much more intense than printed xerox selfie.

The xerox print is a real physical object in your hand after goofing around. A sort of relic for your fun. If you photograph the print, you get the edges of the paper, light reflections off the toner. Everything gets softened.

The digital scan is just BOOM IMAGE BIG. NO EDGES. JUST IMAGE IN YOUR FACE. OF YOUR FACE.

Screenshot of xerox selfies

Long live real prints on paper!

The goal of xeroxing something fun every day

A few days after making these fun face copies, I have an urge to make this into a series. If it’s fun for one day, why not do it every day!?

But I don’t know what to xerox other than my face. Office supplies? Meh. My face with different expressions?

The one thing i don’t like about xeroxing my face is that the end result feels like a selfie. It’s like saying, “HERE’S AN IMAGE OF MY FACE.”

However, I enjoy the act of doing the xerox. The notion of putting your own face — your own identity — on this copier, is rather funny. The copier is meant to be impersonal—make a copy of this document. Robotic. But putting your face on the copier goes against a copier’s impersonal nature.

Oh, I know. I’ll write something on my hand. Hmmmm, let’s be meta about this and write, “This is a xerox” with Sharpie onto my hand, and then xerox that. Then the rest of the day, my hand will have that phrase written on it.

Writing on my hand, "this is a xerox"
Xerox of my hand saying, "this is a xerox"

Looks pretty cool. We’ll see where this series leads.

“This is a xerox” is a bit like René Magritte’s “This Is Not a Pipe.”

Maybe I should have written “this is not a xerox on my hand”.

Ends up that the blue sharpie ink was bleeding across my palm.

Bleeding sharpie ink on my hand

I went to the bathroom to try scrubbing the ink off. Not all the ink came off, so I copied it again.

Erased "this is a xerox"

This result is a bit more interesting that the original scan, because you see the lasting effects of the ink. This is a bit like in 1953 when artist Robert Rauschenberg erased a fellow artist’s drawing by Willem de Kooning.

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Chris Aldrich
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I love the idea of this. Since the 80’s are having a resurgence in throw-back theme parties, people should definitely rent Xerox machines to practice this lost art form.

Practicing this with kids is an even more fun idea.

Where’d I put my Xerox machine???

Chris Aldrich
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And only a day or so later I saw one of the new episodes of The InBESTigators from Australia in which one of the 10 year old characters shows off a handful of Xerox selfies. It’s obviously not a totally lost art to the younger generations.