FACIAL WEAPONIZATION SUITE (2011 – 2014)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facial Weaponization Suite protests against biometric facial recognition–and the inequalities these technologies propagate–by making “collective masks” in community-based workshops that are modeled from the aggregated facial data of participants, resulting in amorphous masks that cannot be detected as human faces by biometric facial recognition technologies. The masks are used for public interventions and performances. One mask, the Fag Face Mask, generated from the biometric facial data of many queer men’s faces, is a response to scientific studies that link determining sexual orientation through rapid facial recognition techniques. Another mask explores a tripartite conception of blackness, divided between biometric racism (the inability of biometric technologies to detect dark skin), the favoring of black in militant aesthetics, and black as that which informatically obfuscates. A third mask engages feminism’s relations to concealment and imperceptibility, taking recent veil legislation in France as a troubling site that turns visibility into an oppressive logic of control. A fourth mask takes up biometrics’ deployment as a border security technology at the Mexico-US border and the resulting violence and nationalism it instigates. These masks intersect with social movements’ use of masking as an opaque tool of collective transformation that refuses dominant forms of political representation.

 

Exhibitions
2014
Theory of ColourMuseo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), curated by Helena Chávez, Alejandra Labastida, and Cuauhtémoc Medina, Mexico City, Mexico
Science Fiction: The New Death, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT), curated by Mike Stubbs, Omar Kholeif, and John Dunning, Liverpool, UK
FACELESS, curated by Bogomir Doringer, Mediamatic, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Annual Showcase, Eyebeam, New York, NY

2013
Infrared IV: New Visions from the Queer Avant-Garde, curated by Malic Amalya, The Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
ID/ENTITYArse Elektronika, San Francisco, CA
FACELESS II, curated by Bogomir Doringer, quartier21 / MuseumsQuartier Wien, Vienna, Austria
Overflow, transmediale reSource 006, curated by Tatiana Bazzichelli, Kunstraum Kreuzberg / Bethanien, Berlin, Germany
frame[o]out: FACELESS 2, curated by Bogomir Doringer, MuseumsQuartier Wien, Vienna, Austria
The Life of Forms: Project Space, curated by Zen Marie, GoetheonMain, Johannesburg, South Africa
REVERIE, Reed College, Portland, Oregon
Stranger Comes to Town: Identity and the Avatar, Vector: Game + Art Convergence, videofag, Toronto, ON
Trans Technology: Circuits of Culture, Self, Belonging, curated by Christian Dunbar-Hester and Bryce J. Renninger, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey

2012
GL.TC/H 2112, Chicago, IL
The Coming Disturbance, MIX: 25th New York Queer Experimental Film Festival, New York, NY
Risky Business, The HTMlles 10: Feminist Festival of Media Arts + Digital Culture, Studio XX, Montreal, Canada
Move In, curated by ONE Archives Gallery & Museum, Honor Fraser, Los Angeles, CA
Queer Video UPLOAD / UNLOAD, curated by David Frantz, INSTALL:WeHo, West Hollywood, CA

2011
Speculative, performance event, curated by Zach Blas and Christopher O’Leary, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions

Workshops
2014
Facial Weaponization Suite: A Mask-Making Workshop, Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, Mexico

2013
“Facial Weaponization Suite: A Mask-Making Workshop,” Eyebeam, New York, NY
“Facial Weaponization Suite: Fag Face Scan Station,” reclaim:pride, ONE Archives, Christopher Street West Pride Festival, West Hollywood, CA
“Facial Weaponization Suite: A Mask-Making Workshop,” b.a.n.g. lab and Performative Nanorobotics Lab, University of California San Diego
“Facial Weaponization Suite: A Mask-Making Workshop,” REVERIE, Reed Arts Week, Reed College, Portland, Oregon

2012
“Faces, Biometrics, and the Aesthetics and Politics of Recognition: A Mask-Making Workshop,” Risky Business, The HTMlles 10: Feminist Festival of Media Arts + Digital Culture, OBORO, Montreal, Canada

Press and Criticism
Ben Valentine, “Weaponizing Our Faces: An Interview with Zach Blas,” Vice
Dan Weiskopf, “Picturing the Self in the Age Of Data,” Art Papers July/August
Marie Lechner, “Le nouvel âge du camouflage,” Libération
Benoît Lamy de La Chapelle, “De l’art ‘post-Internet,'” Zéro Deux Number 70, Summer
Magda Szcześniak, “Blending in and Standing Out – Camouflage and Masking as Queer Tactics of Negotiating Visibility,” View: Theories and Practices of Visual Culture
Hannah Lea, “New Death: Spotlight on Zach Blas,” FACT 
Jason Johnson, “We are living in a terrifying sci-fi universe, say new museum exhibit,” Kill Screen, 2014
Kyle Chayka, “Biometric Surveillance Means Someone Is Always Watching,” Newsweek, 2014
Emily K. Holmes, “Locating Technology: Against Recognition,” Art Practical, 2014
Rebecca Hiscott, “‘Fag Face’ Mask Protests Sex Discrimination in Facial-Scanning Tech,” Mashable, 2014
Hito Steyerl, “FutureGreats 2014: Zach Blas,” Art Review March 2014
Kareem Estefan, “A Cute Idea,” The New Inquiry, 2014
Johnny Magdaleno, “Is Facial Recognition Technology Racist?” The Creators Project, 2014
Kyle Chayka, “Facial Weaponization Suite,” POSTmatter, 2014
“Beginnings + Ends,” Frieze Issue 159 November-December 2013 (accompanying video)
Sandra Wilson and Lilia Gomez Flores, “The Premediation of Identity Management in Art and Design: New Model Cyborgs – Organic & Digital,” Leonardo Electronic Almanac Volume 19 Issue 4, 2013
Andrea Heinz, “Wer schön sein will, hat schon verloren,” Der Standard, 2013
Andrea Heinz, “Zeige nichts von dir,” Zeit Online, 2013
“Faceless Part 2 at Museumquartier Wien,” Inhale Mag, 2013
Alicia Eler, “The Facelessness of Tomorrow Begins Today,” Hyperallergic, 2013
Alexis Lothian and Amanda Phillips, “Can Digital Humanities Mean Transformative Critique?” e-Media Studies Volume 3 Issue 1, 2013
Reverie: Reed Arts Week, exhibition catalogue, Reed College, 2013
Trans Technology: Circuits of Culture, Self, Belonging, exhibition catalogue, Institute for Women and Art, Rutgers University, 2013
Daniel Villarreal, “Gay Bombs & Penis Plants: 3 Subversive Queer Artists That’ll Eff Your World,” gay.net, 2013
Jean Paul Thomin, “Zach Blas et la lutte contre la reconnaissance faciale,” Lien Multimedia, 2012
Lauren Cornell, “Invisibility, or you can’t disappear in America,” Mousse Magazine 35, 2012
Liesbet van Zoonen, Pam Briggs, Aletta Norval, Sandra Wilson, Lilia Gomez Flores, Jasmine Harvey, Elpida Prasopoulo, Lisa Thomas, and Sharon Walker, “Scenarios of Identity Management in the Future,” IMPRINTS: Public Responses to Identity Management Practices & Technologies, 2012

Texts
“Informatic Opacity,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Issue 9, 2014
“Contra-Internet Aesthetics,” You Are Here: Art After the Internet, 2014
“Escaping the Face,” FACELESS II exhibition reader, quartier21 / MuseumsQuartier Wien, 2013
“Queer & Informatic Opacities / Curated Library: Zach Blas,” Eyebeam Storefont
“Escaping the Face: Biometric Facial Recognition and the Facial Weaponization Suite,” Media-N, CAA Conference Edition, 2013
“Fag Face,” Reclaim:Pride issue, RECAPS Magazine, 2013
“Queer Darkness,” Depletion Design: A Glossary of Network Ecologies / Theory on Demand 8, Institute for Network Cultures, 2012
“Weapons for Queer Escape,” Risky Business, The HTMlles 10: Feminist Festival of Media Arts + Digital Culture, Festival Reader, 2012
“Five Videos: Zach Blas/Queer Technologies’ Escape,” Rhizome / Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT) / Liverpool Biennial, 2012
“Imperceptibly Dirty,” No More Potlucks Issue 23: Dirt, 2012
“Fag Face,” Version, 2011

Credits 
Performers & Participants: Kalvin Henely, Andrew Hibbard, Michelle Lee, Scott Kepford, Martabel Wasserman, David Evans Frantz, Christina Aushana, Ahmad Halis, Dorothy Lee, Mona Liu, Patrick Shin, Allison Spence, Oona Tikkaoja, Tahiez Toro, Dominic Bradley, Katrina De Wees, Anaze Izquierdo, Sara Lyons, Kirya Traber, Omar Aguilar, Mariana Arenas, Andrea Bravo, Helena Chávez, Rosa Almendra González, Claudia Hevia, Natalia Millán, Edalid Mendoza Orestes Montero, Daniela Negrete, Daniel Rodríguez Perez, Martin Rivera, Maria Cruz Rodríguez, and L. Salazar
3D Modeling: Scott Kepford, The Great Nordic Sword Fights, Sergio Del Castillo Tello, Danilo Gasques Rodrigues, and Fernando Nos
Fabrication: Machine Histories
Photography: Christopher O’Leary, Tanner Cook, David Evans Frantz, Dominic Paul Miller, Christine Butler, Orestes Montero Cruz, and Oliver Santana
Support: Medialab Prado, The HTMlles, Reed College, b.a.n.g.lab / Performative Nanorobotics Lab / Calit2 / Visual Arts @ UCSD, Eyebeam, Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo