Trevor Paglen, It Began as a Military Experiment (2017), set of prints
Section: Out of Control Room
Research into facial recognition technology began in earnest in the mid-1990s at the behest of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, where the military funded the creation of a database which included thousands of pictures of people. It Began as a Military Experiment, on view at Palazzo Ajutamicristo, was made by curating a selection of portraits, in order to retouch them and run them through an algorithm that identifies keypoints in the faces. It reflects on the super-structuralism attribute of these portraits, because the images were not made for human eyes but rather for machines.
To distinguish a particular person from a collection of other people, an algorithm utilises a large number of photographs to make an average that will end up as a ‘faceprint’ of that face. This practice makes it possible to use the faceprint to identify any other images of that person in the future.
“Fanon” (Even the Dead Are Not Safe) focuses on the translation of these faceprints into portraits whose ‘native’ forms are mathematical abstractions into an image that human eyes can recognise as a face.