This conversation between scholar Jacob Gaboury and artist Zach Blas explores the unique challenges posed by contemporary digital media technology to the political projects of queer, feminist, critical race, and disability studies. Asking how we might negotiate the politics of visibility in an age of pervasive surveillance, Blas and Gaboury look to the work of artists and critical thinkers who offer alternate modes of veiled, obscured, or otherwise negotiated being in the world. Focusing on Blas's own work, the conversation interrogates what Blas terms “informatic opacity” through a discussion of his Facial Weaponization Suite (2011–14), a series of biometric masks that ask who and what we make visible to technology. Looking to the face as a critical site for negotiated visibility, Blas and Gaboury draw on diverse traditions of concealment and performance to frame the contemporary politics of visibility, including the actions of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in Chiapas, Mexico, the tactics of the global hacker group Anonymous, the politics of the veil or hijab, the use of balaclavas by Pussy Riot members based in Russia, and the performance of drag. Contrasting opacity with a number of related key terms such as privacy, invisibility, and security, Blas and Gaboury propose instead that the weaponization of the face can serve as a means to escape from the oppressive logic that attempts to control it, thus transforming the face into what is unknown, unidentified, or opaque.
Research Article|September 01 2016
Zach Blas, Jacob Gaboury; Biometrics and Opacity: A Conversation. Camera Obscura 1 September 2016; 31 (2 (92)): 155–165. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-3592510
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