[-empyre-] (no subject)

Amanda Phillips aphillips at umail.ucsb.edu
Tue Jun 12 18:45:03 EST 2012

Hi Zach,

Apologies for falling off the radar over the weekend - I hope to get to the
nonhuman messages soon but do want to continue this conversation about the

I recommend Jennifer González on these issues of race, the face, and
digital media. I really enjoyed her take on The Race Machine in the re:skin
collection, which she places in the context of Lisa Nakamura's work on
racial tourism. As part of my chapter research, I encountered her article
in camera obscura - "The Face and the Public: Race, Secrecy, and Digital
Art Practice," which is an extension of the ideas in the re:skin piece. If
you haven't read it already, I'd highly recommend it as a nuanced
discussion of visibility, race, the face, and digital culture. She places
Nakamura in conversation with Mark Hansen re: racial passing online and
whether the invisibility of Internet identity can overcome stereotypes or
solidify them into cybertypes - it reminds me a lot of the question of
refused identification and the fag face/whatever face masks.

González's piece offers a useful way to think about mistaking the fluidity
of digital identity for something that is inherently subversive or will
offer us a useful critique of the constructedness of racial identity at
face value (no pun intended). This obviously applies to queer identity too
- what would it mean to make a fag face machine, or a gender machine? To a
certain extent I'm doing the latter with avatar creation experiments, but
how can I make sure these machines are subversive and critical rather than
merely performative?

So, in short, I agree with your students' assessment of the project as
somehow... lacking. It seems to point to a utopian desire for sameness, a
reduction of race to visual cues, and suggests that empathy (as opposed to
identity tourism) is all about the mirror.


On Fri, Jun 8, 2012 at 3:47 PM, Zach Blas <zachblas at gmail.com> wrote:

> amanda, thanks for sharing your faces chapter! i’m going to dive into
> this tonight. super excited! i’ve been thinking a bit more about your
> comments. and i think it’s really crucial for me to point out that i
> envision the fag face component of the facial weaponization suite to
> be just that, a single component.
> when you delve into the work and research on biometric facial
> recognition technologies, you notice there are many targets. as i’ve
> discussed, there is a correlation between these technologies and
> gender and sexuality but also race and criminality. kelly gates has
> written on tracking the “face of terror” after 9/11 with cctv and
> facial recognition as well as the assumptions about race and
> criminality these technologies bring to bear on certain individuals.
> so yes, this work must expand out from fag face to address these other
> intersectional issues, and i really hope to explore this territory as
> the project develops.
> when you brought up the guess my race app, you immediately made me
> think of the human race machine by nancy burson (which also has an
> app): http://nancyburson.com/pages/publicart_pages/hrmachine.html the
> project, which i believe was co-funded by creative time, aims to be an
> anti-racist pedagogical tool. the machine scans your face and allows
> you to see your face as a variety of different races. i actually
> taught this work in my undergraduate course on media art & activism at
> duke last fall. my student reacted very strongly to this piece,
> finding it offensive. they commented at length on the limited ways the
> project offers to view race through the face but they also found that
> the message falls sort. to them, it seemed ridiculous to have to see
> your face as another race to learn about anti-racism. amanda, i wonder
> what you think of this project. what do you think about the ways this
> project uses biometrics and calculation to deliver an anti-racist
> message?
> i’d also like to thank alex so much for bringing feminism into the
> conversation here, which is undoubtedly a crucial interlocutor for
> queerness. i came to queerness first in my youth, and then began to
> learn more about feminism. i consider myself a feminist, but still to
> this day queerness seems to be my baseline commitment. and maybe
> that’s because i’ve run into exclusions within feminist frameworks.
> importantly, i simultaneously respect and question those exclusions.
> for myself, queerness has accommodated my political concerns and
> commitments, which certainly includes feminism. but i take seriously
> alex’s point about the commodification of queerness. i think at their
> best, feminism and queerness are aligned and mutually intwined. i’d
> love to hear what others think about this.
> --
> zach blas
> artist & phd candidate
> literature, information science + information studies, visual studies
> duke university
> www.zachblas.info
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20120612/5dbf898f/attachment.htm>

More information about the empyre mailing list