It Began as a Military Experiment

Artist: Trevor Paglen
object, photography | Series of prints | 2017

Contemporary research in the field of facial recognition techniques began in the mid 1990s by order of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. At the start of that decade, the military authorities established FERET, the database that collected tens of thousands of photographs of people, the majority of which were employed at a military base in Maryland. This work was created by compiling a selection of portraits so as to retouch them and analyse them using an algorithm capable of identifying facial recognition points. The project seeks to reflect on the superstructural qualities of these portraits, produced not for human eyes but for machines. The selection represents some of the ‘original’ faces on which much of later research around facial recognition is based.


Manifesta 12 | 2018.06.18 - 2018.11.04 | Chiesa dei SS Euno e Giuliano(Italy) | Oratorio della “Madonna Rifugio dei Peccatori Pentiti”(Italy) | Oratorio di San Lorenzo(Italy) | Orto Botanico(Italy) | Palazzo Ajutamicristo(Italy) | Palazzo Butera(Italy) | Palazzo Costantino(Italy) | Palazzo Forcella De Seta(Italy) | Palazzo Trinacria(Italy)