Part of Face Value

How do you see me?

Heather Dewey-Hagborg

(United States)
2019, mixed media installation, duration 6:03 minutes

What does it mean to be recognized by facial recognition technology? How do digital systems see us, and what information do they store? How do you see me? is a self-portrait that exposes how technologies look at human faces. We may not recognise these portraits as being of a human, but facial recognition systems do. The installation confronts us with the limits of human and machine vision, and makes visible what gets lost in digital translation and transformation. 

There are two phases to How do you see me?: detection and recognition. The first phase (indicated by green squares) shows a white oval, the colour and shape that defines ‘a face’ in a facial detection system. This reflects the normalisation of whiteness that underlies facial recognition systems. It is one of the causes of algorithmic racism, which leads to people (especially women) of colour often being either unrecognised or misrecognised by these systems.

The second phase (indicated by blue circles) shows how the system tries to recognise the artist’s face. Dewey-Hagborg has used so-called ‘adversarial processes’, algorithms with which she could create a variety of images originating from her self-portrait. The artist used these algorithm-generated images to turn her gaze back on the facial recognition system, to get to know it more deeply.



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