Face Value

2001

Interactive installation in two parts

Part 1: CCTV camera, computer and printer. Dimensions variable. 

Part 2: 11 black and white composite photographs; text

Face Value in 'Geometry of the Face', National Museum of Photography, Copenhagen, 2003

This work is in two parts: an exhibition of eleven black and white photographs of faces and an interactive computer work. Each of the photographic images is composed of features taken from several different people, assembled according to various face reading systems. Descriptions of these characters are also displayed as a list. A computer monitor displays an image of a face. This is an average created by morphing the faces of sixty men and women of a variety of ages and ethnic origins. As the viewer sits in front of the monitor, his or her face appears superimposed over the average. The work is activated when the viewer lines up his or her face with the average and presses a button. This captures an image of his or her face. The computer then calculates various differences between the individual and the average, and prints out a 'character reading' of each individual based on these measurements. Inevitably if someone smiles, or turns sideways for example, they will receive a distorted reading. This fallibility is an important part of the work as it is intended to invite people to consider the mechanisms they use to read character from one another's appearance, not than to assert the validity of any physiognomic system. 

 

Made in collaboration with Professor Alf Linney at University College London. 

 

Commissioned by the Exploratorium Museum of Science, Technology and Innovation, San Francisco and supported by a grant from the Gulbenkian Trust. 

​© Alexa Wright, 2017