Facial Weaponization Suite

Facial Weaponization Suite provides sets of masks and other cloaking devices for public intervention into facial recognition technologies.
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Project Location

Los Angeles California United States of America
Artists Involved

Project Description

Queerness is always in tension with identification and recognition. There are numerous modulations of a queer politics centering around gaining visibility through recognition, just think of current debates around same-sex marriage in the US or the “It Gets Better Project” in response to LGBT youth suicide. These calls to visibility typically coincide with a desire for recognition from the state or a longing to be validated by our neoliberal order. There is also another queer politics that could be said to be concerned with the non-recognizable, a politics that is anti-identity, anti-state, anti-recognition; let’s call it a politics of escape.

A recent study of facial recognition and sexual orientation presents the face as a mode of capture to escape. The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology recently published a 2008 study conducted at Tufts University that tested people’s ability to identify homosexual men from photos of their faces. Ninety faces were shown to ninety participants, and those tested proved remarkably accurate in their ability to recognize faces that had been classified as homosexual, even when exposed to the face for only 50 milliseconds. What could be the benefits of proving to the world that such a recognition apparatus exists? Does it not only further confirm and scientifically validate one of the processes of LGBTIQ stereotyping, such as “gay face” and “fag face”? This study parses us into categories that will be used against us, gives us a visibility that only controls us, and makes us easily knowable to those in power. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari taught us not so long ago: “to the point that if human beings have a destiny, it is rather to escape the face, to dismantle the face and facializations, to become imperceptible, to become clandestine [...] by strange true becomings that [...] make faciality traits themselves finally elude the organization of the face.” Yet, we must know the organizations of the face before dismantling: “Know them, know your faces; it is the only way you will be able to dismantle them and draw your lines of flight.”

How do we flee this visibility into the fog of a queerness that refuses to be recognized? We can start by making faces our weapons. We can learn many faces and wear them interchangeably. A face is like being armed. Think of the female Algerian freedom fighters in Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 film The Battle of Algiers; they break into occupied territory of the colonizers, in part, by wearing their oppressors’ faces, or the Zapatistas who hide their faces so that they may be seen.

In response to these emerging studies that link successfully determining sexual orientation through rapid facial recognition techniques, I am developing a Facial Weaponization Suite with my Queer Technologies platform. The suite provides sets of masks and other cloaking devices for public protest, such as “collective masks” that allow you to wear the faces of many with a single mask. One mask, The Fag Face Collective Mask, is generated from the biometric facial data of many gay men’s faces. When this facial data is brought together in 3D modeling software, the result is a mutated, alien facial mask that cannot be read or parsed by universal standards of identification. Like the black bloc, The Fag Face Collective Mask uses collectivity to evade individual detection, refusing to abide by biometric facial identification and withdrawing from the “calculated and quantifiable being” that has become all too knowable in cybernetic capitalism.

The first uses of the Facial Weaponization Suite will be a mask-making workshop and public intervention in Los Angeles during the fall of 2012 as well as at the Liverpool Biennial.

A video that introduces the project can be viewed here: http://www.queertechnologies.info/products/facial-weaponization-suite/
Project Timeline and Budget

biometric facial scans - $1000
3D modeling - $1000
3D printing of mask molds - $1000
mask-making - $1000
suite accessories fabrication - $500
public intervention video production $200
*total - $4700

June - July
*gather biometric facial scan data

August - September
*3D modeling of masks

*fabricating mask molds
*large scale mask-making production

*workshops and interventions in LA and the Liverpool Biennial

*remaining suite fabrication (carrying case, accessories)
*video documentation production

*exhibition installation design
About the Artist(s) Involved


Zach Blas is an artist-theorist working at the intersections of networked media, queerness, and the political.

2014 PhD, Literature, Information Science + Information Studies, Visual Studies, Duke University
2009 Non-Degree Graduate Studies, Rhetoric / Film & New Media, University of California Berkeley
2008 Master of Fine Art, Design | Media Arts, University of California Los Angeles
2006 Post-Baccalaureate Certificate, Art and Technology Studies, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
2004 Bachelor of Science, Film, Cum Laude, Boston University

2007-present Queer Technologies, http://www.queertechnologies.info
2011-present Speculative, http://www.s-p-e-c-u-l-a-t-i-v-e.info
2010-present The Public School Durham, http://durham.thepublicschool.org

2013 Trans Technology: Circuits of Culture, Self, Belonging, Rutgers University,
Film / Video Program, Cities | Bodies | Action: The Politics of Passion in the Americas, 8th Encuentro,
The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, Sao Paulo, Brazil

2012 Liverpool Biennial
The Social Contract, Artefact Festival, STUK arts centre, Leuven, Belgium

2011 DeOrigenBélico: La Revuelta / OfWarOrigin: The Revolt, Ateneo de Valencia, Valencia, Venezuela
instruction manual, OpenSource Festival, Düsseldorf, Germany
Speculative, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (co-curator)
Impractically, Practical, Take My Picture Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
alt:Queer, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT), Liverpool, UK
Many Times, Many Worlds, ARTifact Gallery, University of California San Diego
Getting Closer, Fe Arts Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA
Somatic SENSOR, Highways, Santa Monica, CA

2010 Trial by Form, collaboration with Mark B. N. Hansen and Pinar Yoldas, John Hope Franklin Center New Media
Space, Duke University
What is Good Art?, Fredric Jameson Gallery, Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University
Online Gallery, Adaptive Actions, http://www.adaptiveactions.net
CHAT: A Digital Arts and Humanities Festival, UNC Chapel Hill
Online Gallery, CTRL+W33D, http://w33d.tumblr.com

2009 File Electronic Language International Festival, Sao Paulo, Brazil

2008 Exit Strategies, New Wight Gallery, University of California Los Angeles
Still: Prints from our Process, Bermant Gallery, University of California Los Angeles

2007 Graduate Work from the Department of Design | Media Arts, Experimental Digital Arts Center, University of
California Los Angeles
Online Gallery, University of California Digital Arts Research Network

2006 Palm, New Wight Gallery, University of California Los Angeles
Visual Music, Broad Art Center, University of California Los Angeles
Graduate Exhibition, G2, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Design Body, LG Space, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Open Architecture, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions

2005 Projects from the Berwick Research Institute’s Artist in Research Program, Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the

2004 Multimedia Installation, Video Installation Studio, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA
Signals, Reception, and Reproduction: Searching for Identity in Technology, Griggs Place Artist
Space, Allston, MA

2012 Science of the Oppressed as Artivism Panel, Allied Media Conference, Detroit, MI
Queer Viral Aesthetics: Resistant Practices in Media Art and Philosophy Panel, South by Southwest
Interactive Festival, Austin, Texas
Queer Technologies, Viral Aesthetics, and Hypertrophic Transformation, Momentum: Women, Art, and
Technology Panel, College Art Association Conference, Los Angeles, CA
Queer Technologies, Hacktivism, and Other Sciences of the Oppressed, New Paradigms / Necessary
Positions: Activism and Interventions in Latin American Visual Arts, UNC - Duke Consortium in Latin
American and Caribbean Studies
Queer Technologies, Commercializing Eros panel, reSource sex, transmediale, Haus der Kulturen der Welt,
Berlin, Germany
Fag Face, or How to Weaponize Your Face: On Facial Recognition and Escaping the Face, reSource research
practices panel, transmediale, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany

2011 Queer Viralities: Resistant Practices in Media Art and Philosophy Panel (chair), International
Symposium on Electronic Art, Istanbul, Turkey
Speculative Panel (moderator), Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions
Science Fiction and Speculative Thought as Social Critique and Social Action Panel, ARTifact Gallery, University
of California San Diego

2010 Queer Technologies & Spaces of Acceleration, Arse Elektronika Festival, San Francisco, CA

2009 Queer Technologies & Queer Capitalism, Upgrade! Tijuana
Queer Technologies, GRID, and Viral Aesthetics, Sex and Sexuality Panel, Digital Arts and Culture,
University of California Irvine
Queer Technologies: Toward a Viral Aesthetic, Processes and Aesthetics of Digital Art, MediaModes
Conference, School of Visual Arts, New York, NY

2008 Queer Technologies, International Symposium on Electronic Art, Singapore

2007 What is Queer Technology?, Subtle Technologies Festival, University of Toronto
Methodological Approaches to Formulating a Queer Technology, Epicenter: University of California
Digital Arts Research Network Faculty and Graduate Research Exchange, University of California Riverside

forthcoming “GRIDs, Gay Bombs, and Viral Aesthetics: Queer Technologies’ Networked Assemblages,” Feminst
and Queer Information Studies Reader
“Queer Darkness,” Depletion Design: A Glossary of Network Ecologies
“Virus, Viral,” Women Studies Quarterly

2012 “Reality is Aesthetic and Political: Editor’s Preface,” The Transreal: Political Aesthetics of Crossing
Realities by Micha Cárdenas (co-editor)
“Queerness, Openness,” Leper Creativity: Cyclonopedia Symposium
“On Queer Viralities,” World of the News: The world’s greatest peer-reviewed newspaper of
in/compatible research, transmediale festival

2011 “On Electronic Civil Disobedience: Interview with Ricardo Dominguez,” Reclamations Journal, Issue 4
Speculative Exhibition Catalogue (co-editor and contributor)
“Sex Networks,” Request for Comments, Exploring New Configurations of Network Politics,
“Weapons for Queer Escape,” Schlossplatz³ Spring 2011 Issue 10 Identity (Crisis)
“Fag Face,” Version, http://version.org/textuals/show/19#

2010 “Queer Technologies,” Adaptive Actions Madrid

2009 invited contributor, Queer & Feminist New Media Spaces Forum, HASTAC,
“GRID: Viral Contagions in Homosexuality and the Queer Aesthetics of Infection,” Proceedings of the
2009 Digital Arts and Culture Conference - After Media: Embodiment and Context,

invited contributor, Viral Economies: Hacktivating Design, Empyre: Soft-Skinned Space,
“In Conversation with Chris O’Leary,” Future and Dust Exhibition Catalog, Arts Learning Institute

2008 “Queer Technologies: The Imitation Game (for Gendered Interstice),” a mínima 23

2010 Prixxx Arse Elektronika Recipient, Arse Elektronika Festival

2009 Gallery Choice Award, What is Good Art?, Fredric Jameson Gallery, Kenan Institute for Ethics,
Duke University

2011 Devisualize Residency and Workshop, Medialab Prado, Madrid, Spain
On the Commons; or, Believing-Feeling-Acting Together, Banff Research in Culture Residency,
The Banff Centre, Banff, Canada

2010 Art and Resistance Summer Residency, Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, San Cristóbal de las
Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

2011-present Contributing Editor, Version.org

2010-present Co-Founder and D.A.N. committee member, The Public School Durham
Peer Reviewer, Digital Humanities Quarterly

2010 Reviewer of Art Papers, SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition, Los Angeles, CA

2005-06 Media Producer, Archivist, & Distribution Assistant, Video Data Bank, Chicago, IL

2005 Gallery Attendant & Archivist, Exit Art, New York, NY

2004 Videographer & Artist Assistant, Berwick Research Institute, Roxbury, MA

2012 Megan Giller, “Women juggle work and family - and now their online identities too,” GigaOM
An Xiao, “Talking Tech: A Report from the College Art Association Conference,” Hyperallergic
“Zach Blas and Queer Technologies,” Social Media Project: A research project of the Center for the
Study of Gender and Sexuality,

2011 Bruce Sterling, “Design Fiction: ‘Speculative’ exhibition, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions,” Wired
Mattia Cassalegno, “The ‘Speculative’ Exhibition: May Fiction Redefine Reality?” Digimag 68 October 2011,

2010 Matthew E. Milliken, “D.I.Y. school for adults ‘opens’ here,” The Herald-Sun
Jacob Gaboury, “Interview with Zach Blas,” Rhizome.org, http://rhizome.org/editorial/3718
Chris Crews, “Patriotic Penetration: Gay Bombs, Queer Times, and Homonationalist Assemblages,”
Canon Magazine, http://www.canonmagazine.org/spring10/crews.html
Mark Marino, “Disrupting Heteronormative Codes: When Cyclons in Slash Goggles Ogle
AnnaKournikova,” http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/09q9m0kn?display=all
2008 Bruce Sterling, “Critical Code Studies,” Wired Blog Network,
Julian Bleeker, “Exit Strategies,” Near Future Laboratory Blog
Artist(s) Work Samples

1 - Gay Bombs, 2008: http://www.queertechnologies.info/products/gay-bombs/

Gay Bombs is a technical manual manifesto that outlines a “how to” of queer networked activism. Gay Bombs is a reverse discourse, a re-inscription, a mutating body politic, a multitude, a queer terrorist assemblage of networked activists, deploying new technologically queer sensibilities. Responding to a growing drive to militarize homosexuality, this user’s guide reclaims a forgotten history of queer bombs and demonstrates how to build and use those bombs. Topics include: understanding queer technological tactics, creating and organizing, working with consumerism, and managing output.

2 - transCoder, 2008: http://www.queertechnologies.info/products/transcoder/

Picking up where old queer slang languages, like Polari, left off, transCoder is a sociolinguistic coding orientation designed to transcode between cultural layers and computational layers. As a queer programming anti-language, transCoder offers libraries rooted in theories of queerness as an attempt to severe ontological and epistemological ties to dominant technologies and interrupt the flow of circulation between heteronormative culture, coding, and visual interface. transCoder provides new programmatic and linguistic possibilities for the queerness.

3 - Speculative, 2011: http://www.zachblas.info/projects/speculative/

Speculative is  a curatorial project by Zach Blas and Christopher O’Leary that includes a group exhibition, performance event, panel discussion, and catalog presented at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions from June 16 – August 28, 2011. Speculative focuses on politically and socially engaged modes of art production, with an emphasis on the experimental, subversive, and tactical potentials of media and technology in the 21st century. The works address notions of design, science, business, sex, gender, death, politics, environmentalism, globalization, neoliberalism, and the future, ranging from critical software, art-science fusions, social practice, experimental video, wearable architecture, performance, and more. Speculative features the artwork and writing of Casey Alt, Zach Blas, Scott Bukatman, Jeff Cain, Micha Cárdenas, Jordan Crandall, Sean Dockray, Ricardo Dominguez / *particle group*, Rita Raley, Xárene Eskandar, Alexander R. Galloway, Jack Halberstam, Michael Kontopoulos, Pedro Lasch, MAL IDEA, Elle Mehrmand, Christopher O’Leary, Claudia Salamanca, Malcolm Smith, and Pinar Yoldas.
Comments (1)

  • clarissal | Tue, May 8th, 2012 11:49 p.m.
    I would say this project has the potential to relocate our current conceptualization of queerness by addressing the historical problematics involving 'abnormals' and facial physiognomy that 19th century psychoanalysts and also anatomists have written on. Does my comment constitute a vote?
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