straight nose, queer mouth

In 2017, Wang and Kosinski published a study on sexual orientation that caused uproar in the academic field and on social media. By using deep neural network to extract features from more than 35,000 facial images, they trained an AI to classify the sexual orientation of the subjects. The algorithm could predict with up to 91% accuracy whether a person is hetero- or homosexual.

The research found that “gay men and women tended to have gender-atypi­cal facial morphology, expression, and grooming styles” and that “faces contain much more information about sexual orientation than can be perceived and interpreted by the human brain”.

This project doesn’t focus on the ethical implications of the study, but aims to question the necessity of such a classification and the role photography plays in it. With the development of facial-recognition programmes, there is a new role assigned to photography on a scienti­fic level. The sensibility of the photographer is diminished in order to focus on the subject. Only the “reality” of the person and their physical features remain.

Grethen therefore intended to bring back this debate on a humane level: Through this installation, which reflects the codes of this study, the viewers are confronted with their own stereotypes as well as with their perception of sexual orientations as social constructs in a post-technological context. The installation challenges the interpretation of the viewers as they might try to figure out the dynamics and technology at work behind the program, which remains concealed.

Installation views:  “Brave New World Order” , Casino, Luxembourg, 2021

© All rights reserved, Elodie Grethen, 2024