The rise of the selfie and the fixation on the face resides in what Zach Blas (2013) termed “global face culture,” a culture driven by impulses to know, capture, calculate, categorize, and standardize human faces. Similar to the measuring instruments built in the disciplines of racial science, today’s facial algorithms treat the face as a truth-telling and static repository. The singling out and capturing was believed to reveal someone’s real identity in the form of race, criminal character, moral flaws, and virtues. Contemporary facial recognition software used in biometric identification and mass surveillance continues to draw from scientific methods, which rested on the notion that an isolated representation of the face can give away a person’s truth. Recent examples for this are the building of algorithmic software that attempts to detect a person’s sexuality, criminal status or personality, including whether someone is a terrorist, by using a single facial portrait. In this seminar we will scrutinize the face from a visual culture perspective––and link dispersed visual representations of the face over time. Students will engage with a range of cultural technologies of the face (selfies, mugshots, the bourgeois portrait, the passport picture, facial algorithms…) and reflect on different modalities of face cultures.
- Kursleiter:in: Anouk Madörin