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Facial machines and obfuscation in an age of biometrics and neural networks

International seminar gathering cultural theorists, media theorists and artists within the field of new media art

Info about event


Tuesday 13 November 2018, at 13:00 - Wednesday 14 November 2018, at 14:30

Biometrics represent their subjects in highly discriminatory and dehumanizing ways. The aesthetic outcomes of biometrics, the reductive subjectivities they produce, and the various problematics they raise in terms of racism, surveillance and control have been widely discussed within the humanities.

Taking this as a starting point, this two-days seminar aims at gathering leading scholars and media artists to engage in an open conversation about the role of biometrics in the production of subjectivity with particular emphasis on how we (as researchers, artists, activists, software designers etc.) can engage in cultivating other kinds of aesthetics that might enable other subjectivities.

The seminar’s aim is twofold: 1. Mapping a history of the aesthetics of biometrics, from analogue prototypes such as physiognomy, phrenology and eugenics, to their current digital renaissance – especially with regards to the development of neural networks for facial recognition. 2. Exploring contemporary art activist responses to biometrics in order not only to theorize biometrics as the latest instantiation of the facial machine (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987), but also to begin mapping alternative counter-aesthetics (e.g. obfuscation, masking, camouflaging) as a particular political resistance to these technologies.




Zach Blas (UK)

Kyle McDonald (US)

Sharelab - Olivia Solis Viljaverde, Andrej Petrowski, Vladan Joler (YU)

Adam Harvey (DE)

Kristoffer Ørum, (DK)

Jill Walker Rettberg (NO)

Daniela Agostinho (DK)

Lila-Lee Morrison (SE)


The seminar is part of the research project Technologies of the Face in Contemporary Art and Making Sense of Data funded by The Danish Council for Independent Research




Tuesday, November 13th

13.00-13.15                       Welcome and introduction by the organizers

13.15-14.15                       Jill Walker Rettberg: “Biometric Citizens”

14.15-14.45                       Adam Harvey: “Reverse Engineering Facial Machines: CV Dazzle, HyperFace, and Computer Vision Camouflage.”


14.45-15.15                       Coffee and cake


15.15-16.00                       Zach Blas: TBA

16.00-16.30                       Lila Lee-Morrison: “Future Portraits: Tracing a history of preemption in facial recognition”


Wednesday, November 14th                 

9.30-10.30                         Coffee and croissants

10.30-10.45                       Quick welcome

10.45-11.30                       Kyle McDonald: “Weird Intelligence”

11.30-12.00                       Daniela Agostinho: “On Recognition, Recognizability, and the Right to be Vulnerable”


12.00-13.00                        Lunch


13.00-13.45                        Kristoffer Ørum: “A report from the making of It speaks to us of what we might become

13.45-14.15                        Sharelab: TBA

14.15-14.30                        Final Remarks





The seminar is public and we welcome everybody. Please registrate by sending an e-mail to lealauram@cc.au.dk so we can make sure there is enough coffee and cake for everyone.