Kenniscentrum faculteit Digitale Media & Creatieve Industrie

Dazzles, decoys, and deities

the Janus face of anti-facial recognition masks


Over the past few years a growing number of artists have critiqued the ubiquity of identity recognition technologies. Specifically, the use of these technologies by state security programs, tech-giants and multinational corporations has met with opposition and controversy. A popular form of resistance to recognition technology is sought in strategies of masking and camouflage. Zach Blas, Leo Selvaggio, Sterling Crispin and Adam Harvey are among a group of internationally acclaimed artists who have developed subversive anti-facial recognition masks that disrupt identification technologies. This paper examines the ontological underpinnings of these popular and widely exhibited mask projects. Over and against a binary understanding and criticism of identity recognition technology, I propose to take a relational turn to reimagine these technologies not as an object for our eyes, but as a relationship between living organisms and things. A relational perspective cuts through dualist and anthropocentric conceptions of recognition technology opening pathways to intersectional forms of resistance and critique. Moreover, if human-machine relationships are to be understood as coming into being in mutual dependency, if the boundaries between online and offline are always already blurred, if the human and the machine live intertwined lives and it is no longer clear where the one stops and the other starts, we need to revise our understanding of the self. A relational understanding of recognition technology moves away from a notion of the self as an isolated and demarcated entity in favour of an understanding of the self as relationally connected, embedded and interdependent. This could alter the way we relate to machines and multiplies the lines of flight we can take out of a culture of calculated settings.

Reference de Vries, P. B. (2017). Dazzles, decoys, and deities: the Janus face of anti-facial recognition masks. Platform: Journal of Media and Communication, 8(1), 72-86.
15 June 2017

Publication date

Jun 2017


P.B. de Vries


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