The “Real Thomas Metzinger” takes the nose-job as an occasion to (re)consider and diagram the self, the face and authenticity in the age of cosmetic surgery, consumer AI and networked culture. Ehrenstein grapples with the notions of identity and authenticity and troubles the idea of a “true self” that ultimately serves to police her body after the cosmetic procedure.
The artist’s decision to undergo a nose job serves as a catalyst for probing societal attitudes toward authenticity and self-expression. While neuroscience has not yet reached a consensus on what the self or consciousness is or whether it even exists, reactions to Ehrenstein’s surgical alteration revealed a societal insistence on a fixed notion of the authentic self. Meanwhile, neuroscientists such as Thomas Metzinger posit that the self is entirely a constructed entity, a hallucination of the mind rather than an inherent truth. The “brute fact” is that behind every face, rather than a transcendent self, “there is nothing but material substance.”
Around the same time, the proliferation of deepfake technologies, transitioning from hi-tech to consumer-level, further complicates the relationship between facial appearance and personal identity. Applications such as Mug Life enabled consumers to let other people’s faces say what they wanted them to—Oprah Winfrey and Elvis Presley end up as little more than lo-fi digital mouthpieces in the artist’s process.
On screen, Ehrenstein performs a series of tasks and exercises that, according to various online guides, are supposed to reconcile her surgically altered face with a truer self. Collaged with the aforementioned deep fake-generated footage overlaid with quotes from Metzinger’s “The Ego Tunnel”, the artist decenters the authenticity of the self in favor of a more malleable, unfixed, glitchy version.
Ehrenstein extrapolates these coinciding moments spanning the personal, the societal, the technological, to question whether an unalterable self exists in the first place, reconsidering identity, and reality in an age where physical appearance can be surgically and digitally manipulated, and perceptions of selfhood are constantly mediated by technological advancements.

Felix Ansmann

Anna Ehrenstein works in various mediums including lensbased media, textile, sculpture, installations, social interaction and writing—with a focus on research and collaboration. The process of materializing intangible data is integral to her installations, which are deeply rooted in community and collectivity. Ehrenstein adopts what she calls “a precarious assemblage” approach, collaborating extensively with diverse groups. She believes in the radical potential of spiritual coalition, ritualistic practices, and collective unlearning, aiming to redistribute global north resources to foster southsouth alliances. Born in Germany to Albanian parents with transottoman ancestry, she harbors a keen interest in concepts such as plasticity, creolization, Islamic and protoscience fiction. Her upbringing, marked by her mother’s access to a work visa contrasted with her father’s denied asylum and subsequent relocation to Tirana, fueled Ehrenstein’s curiosity about the necropolitics of migration and the construction of the Eurasian continent.

Ehrensteinʼs academic pursuits led her to study media art, photography, and curation, further augmenting her transdisciplinary artistic practice. She is currently a guest professor at the interdisciplinary MFA between UDK, Berlin and TU, Berlin.

Anna Ehrenstein
Real Thomas Metzinger
HD video
3:38 min
Aspect Ratio
40 (+3 artist’s proofs)
The box contains
1 exhibition copy: HD video (H.264)
1 archival copy: ProRes 422 (HQ)
1 certificate of authenticity and rights
1 flag and 1 SSD drive

With the purchase of the work, you obtain the rights to:


Further questions? Read our FAQ