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Thursday, May 12 • 4:05pm - 4:10pm
Defaced: Biometric Facial Recognition and the Queer Politics of Escape

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Biometric devices use physiological characteristics such as fingerprints, palm veins and prints, face recognition, DNA, iris and retina recognition, and scent to identify individuals and groups. This data is often collected from consumers and citizens by retailers and government agencies with the promise of fast, easy, and flexible access to personal networks, products, and information.

As a result of the collection of this data, biometric devices have the ability to identify individuals on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation. The identificatory practices on which biometric data rely upon to function are stable and normative. Identity, however, is not static, and nuance often leads to the failure of biometric devices to process biometric data and produce coherent results. This incoherence speaks to the inevitable inability to account for the complexity of personal identity, and it begs us to question the extent to which we are willing to allow biometric data to speak for us.

This paper situates itself at this moment of failure and considers the ways in which practices of “defacement” and intelligibility might be more desirable than visibility and recognition. Specifically, this work examines the critical intervention made by contemporary artists such as Zach Blas whose Facial Weaponiztion Suite positions escape as more than a desire to exit current regimes of control, but also as a way to cultivate forms of living otherwise. Escape, Blas argues “is a collective attempt—aesthetic, conceptual, political—to eradicate forms of control, exploitation, and domination, which just might make the world more hospitable to all” (rhizome.org).

This project asks timely and important questions regarding the impact of surveillance on civil and human rights. Its position at the intersection of the arts and sciences encourages critical reflection upon the role of biometric technology in everyday lived experiences, and highlights the important role the arts play in the development of science and technology.


Thursday May 12, 2016 4:05pm - 4:10pm MST
COOR L1-84 975 S Myrtle Ave Arizona State University Tempe, AZ 85281
  Archives and Collections, Short Paper
  • Session Location COOR L1-84

Attendees (7)