Discussion: Faceless

20/05/2016 | 18:00 - 20:00 | Coded Cultures Central  | Free
Images from the Faceless exhibitions at Q21 MuseumsQuartier

Bogomir Doringer, Brigitte Felderer and Matthias Tarasiewicz gather todiscuss the upcoming book FACELESS that will be published as a special edition of the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. As a special, artist Claudia Mate, who will during the talk manipulate and transform 3D avatar in context of the FACELESS phenomenon.

The premise of FACELESS is to explore the common occurrence of hidden faces in contemporary society. September 11 and its consequences led to a change in security concepts and the installment of surveillance systems in public spaces – presented to us as if for our own safety. As a result, we feel that our faces are becoming «compressed» and exposed. Could subversive media strategies regain this lost privacy? Do we need to reinvent the concept of privacy?

Following the events of 911, images of masked faces of terrorists became dominant in the media. These are repeated as a ghostly, unknown presence that reminds us of the unsafe time we live in. At the same time throughout Europe; people began to pursue a ban on burqas.

In addition to the loss of privacy, the rules of modern technology demand that we are constantly visible. Social networks promoted as platforms for communication, came to define our standards of everyday activity and lifestyle. They approach us with the promise of serving as self-promotional tools but increasingly invade our privacy without our informed consent.

The unstable identity of the present begs for the return of power of the mask from ancient times. Back when it was used as a form of protection, disguise, performance, or just plain entertainment.

This phenomenon, has been shaped as an exhibition that gathered more than 100 contemporary artists and fashion designers. It has been presented on the invitation of Quartier21 at the Museums Quartier in Vienna, Mediamatic in Amsterdam and in Brussels. Due to complexity and notion that this is an ongoing phenomenon, we are coming out with the book.

Bogomir Doringer Artist and curator

FACELESS explores the basic role that faces play in our media-defined culture. Many faces are familiar and known to us; we recognize them, associate biographies, scandals, and stories with them. Even though we are only confronted with media surfaces, we think we are gaining an insight into a personality and are able to witness an entire life. We deduce character traits from facial features and infer unmistakable identities. But in the end, the physiognomies we encounter only reflect our own personal concept of happiness, recognition, attention, and success.

The sugarcoated appearance of flawless models defines overbearing ideals that remain unattainable and yet constantly challenge us. The standards seem more powerful than we are and impossible to live up to. The comparison makes us insecure, defines how we deal with ourselves, and influences our consumer behavior, our desires, and our fears.

The grotesque faces the media bombards us with not only affect our sense of self, not only confront us with unequal reflections, but also ensnare us in excessive self-control. They have long since left marks that are indelibly engraved in the almighty web. Eternalized in the book of faces, we become findable, identifiable. Ultimately all our projections and desires are revealed, and worse yet are divulged to entities of control; both legal and secret. We emerge and can never disappear from view again.

Faces do not disappear. They hide themselves behind masks; are manipulated beyond recognition and sometimes disfigured. FACELESS can also be read as an ironic, angry, and above all justified criticism of our media reality. FACELESS supplies an immediately defiant and ironic bid against a dynamic force that has long ago infiltrated our lives. A phenomenon that we inevitably feed, but it’s not too late to resist.

Brigitte Felderer University of Applied Arts, Vienna

In his seminal essay on “The author as producer”, Walter Benjamin (1934) addressed the question of (artistic) commitment under certain social conditions. He wrote “the rigid, isolated object (work, novel) is of no use whatsoever. It must be inserted into the context of living social relations.” (ibid). Since the dramatic changes in the 20th century in regards to authorship (see Remix culture) and the rise of digital information and communications technologies, the methods of production, dissemination and availability of content have multiplied. In the 21st century, data is the «grease» of the network society, a pervasively mediating and interconnecting element. Everything is data and can be represented through data analysis, or can it?

In recent years a trend of commodification of culture and “tethered appliances” (as described by Jonathan Zittrain) became evident. “If you want to criticize a religion, write a book” is written in Apple’s App Store Guidelines, which make it clear that ‘critical software’ is not wanted there. The question is, where does critical production happen today?

Information leaking scandals (on the example of Chelsea Manning, Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, etc.) brought with them a huge public interest of data collections- the daily creation of unique encryption keys with the software OpenPGP tripled, and the number of global Tor users doubled since Snowden’s leaks first became public. There is a burgeoning desire for people to become “faceless”. Although encryption has been available for a long time, these leaking scandals have brought the issues to the attention of the public much more rapidly than academic papers or critical (media) artworks.

The project FACELESS is a critical forum of discussing and presenting the discourses that are revolving around questions between technological defeatism (post-privacy) and data-resistance. The question is if are we able to outline another future, and if this is possible with means of technology. This can only be addressed by a critical art practice which is information savvy, research driven and follows the current discussion on the ethical use of “Big Data” as well as outlining the future challenges of technology development.

Matthias Tarasiewicz Research Institute for Arts & Technology