Thinking Beyond Biometrics

A Playful Dance


  • Lea Laura Michelsen



Today, digital biometrics are proliferating. Based on scans of biological traits – from faces, fingerprints and gait to vein patterns, heart rhythm, brain activity, and body odor – biometrics are known to be able to establish the identity of a human subject. When reading humanities research on biometrics, though, it becomes evident that we are altering a lot more than just our faces. This article proposes a study of a wave of artistic counter-biometrics in order to enable thinking beyond the biometric box, practicing the ‘art of disappearing’ from the biometric gaze. With an outset in Zach Blas’ Face Cages (2013- 16) and his “Fag Face” mask from Facial Weaponization Suite (2011-14) the article argues that biometrics produces an aesthetics, and that it should be treated as such. This shifts our perspective from the technical media to the narratives we inscribe in these media and the aesthetic output enabled by that. Activating a counter- biometric aesthetics is far from naïve. On the contrary, engaging in the aesthetics of biometrics is a valuable and urgently needed research strategy for dealing with the physiognomic renaissance biometrics brings about.