Zachary Kaiser
(un)mask (2015)
single channel video

(un)mask is a short film about the near future of affective, immaterial labor. Cameras owned by advertisers and the state pervade our physical spaces. Hypersensitive to facial expression data, corporations and government entities capture and exploit it, offering new modes of biopolitical control through a commodity we cannot help but give away.

Drawing on various discourses surrounding immaterial labor and the increasingly sophisticated face-tracking technologies embedded in surveillance systems and tools to measure the effectiveness of advertising, (un)mask suggests that every facial expression is a valuable piece of data—affective labor that can be captured, analyzed, and used to make inferences about us and make recommendations to us, helping advertisers and government agencies better algorithmically anticipate our actions and ever more deeply enmesh themselves in our daily lives.

The film aims to question what avenues of resistance there are available to us, and suggests that by over-emoting and thus overflowing the databases of facial expression recognition data with a flood of affect, we can confuse those aiming to exploit this data and devalue it as a commodity.

A note on the typography: the words present in some frames of the film are drawn from the work of the University of Cambridge Autism Research Centre, which developed a sophisticated taxonomy of emotions linked to facial expressions, and codified 24 main groups of emotions. This work has served as the basis for some of the facial expression recognition research being done in both the public and private sectors today.

(un)mask has been featured on Cyborgology and made its debut at the Currents New Media Festival in 2016.