The end of the Age of Innocence

Since you cannot lose yourself anymore, you will be captured.

Nothing beats a night alone, right? Pouring yourself a glass of wine, reading a good book and enjoying the solitude of your own space. Your own home. The curtains concealing you from the rest of the world. Your privacy. But are you actually alone?

As Maxim Februari suggests in an article published this week in the Dutch national newspaper NRC, you may think you are wandering lost and alone “but in fact you are archived, stored, classified, recorded. The modern world is a search engine and it will find you”. Pretty soon photos of all European citizens will become accessible to European authorities to shift through using facial recognition software. All this for the sake of our safety and “the fight against terrorism”.

European citizens often think that President Bush’s famous ‘war on terror’ is being waged by foreign powers in distant deserts. It doesn’t really get through to us yet that we’re in the middle of it. The war on terror is being waged in European squares and beaches, in European streets and fields, on the basis of camera images, with all European citizens as suspects.

Remote biometric identification threatens our fundamental rights and freedoms; in such a way as to jeopardize its existence. For once the benefits don’t outweigh the risks, says the director of Amnesty in Austria, where the Ministry of Interior admitted facial recognition has been used in demonstrations. It is necessary to understand that ‘the war on terror’ leads to uncertainty and eventually more terror. A total ban on facial recognition software is urgent to protect our anonymity, our innocence, and our right to privacy. Your body becomes evidence in someone else’s war.

To delve deeper into issues of surveillance and identity in the age of digital face recognition, from Saturday 18 September to 10 October you can visit the new IMPAKT exhibition Face Value  How does the continuous screening, capturing and digitisation of our faces, voices and emotions impact how we value them? What are the socio-political consequences of using algorithms that reduce your face to a digital barcode, and that make assumptions about your identity based on how you look?

Face Value shows the work of 5 artists that critically reflect on these themes, showing the dangers, as well as exciting alternatives to reclaim our faces.

Face Value is a collaboration between IMPAKT and the Dutch Film Festival. The exhibition has been curated by Rosa Wevers (Utrecht University) and includes works by: Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Effi & Amir, Josèfa Ntjam, Martine Stig and Ningli Zhu. Read more about Face Value here.

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