Facial Weaponization Suite (2011 - 2014)

Facial Weaponization Suite protests against biometric facial recognition–and the inequalities these technologies propagate–by making "collective masks" in community-based workshops that are modeled from the aggregated facial data of participants, resulting in amorphous masks that cannot be detected as human faces by biometric facial recognition technologies.

The masks are used for public interventions and performances. One mask, the Fag Face Mask, generated from the biometric facial data of many queer men's faces, is a response to scientific studies that link determining sexual orientation through rapid facial recognition techniques. Another mask explores a tripartite conception of blackness, divided between biometric racism (the inability of biometric technologies to detect dark skin), the favoring of black in militant aesthetics, and black as that which informatically obfuscates. A third mask engages feminism's relations to concealment and imperceptibility, taking recent veil legislation in France as a troubling site that turns visibility into an oppressive logic of control. A fourth mask takes up biometrics' deployment as a border security technology at the Mexico-US border and the resulting violence and nationalism it instigates. These masks intersect with social movements' use of masking as an opaque tool of collective transformation that refuses dominant forms of political representation.


Selected Exhibitions

Your Consent is Implied, curated by Joshua Mittleman and Gus Sondin-Kung, New Shelter Plan, Copenhagen, Denmark
Theory of Colour, curated by Helena Chávez, Alejandra Labastida, and Cuauhtémoc Medina, Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), Mexico City, Mexico
Science Fiction: The New Death, curated by Mike Stubbs, Omar Kholeif, and John Dunning, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT), Liverpool, United Kingdom
FACELESS, curated by Bogomir Doringer, Mediamatic, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Annual Showcase, Eyebeam, New York, NY

FACELESS II, curated by Bogomir Doringer, quartier21 / MuseumsQuartier Wien
Overflow, curated by Tatiana Bazzichelli, transmediale reSource 006, Kunstraum Kreuzberg / Bethanien, Berlin, Germany
REVERIE, Reed College, Portland, OR
Trans Technology: Circuits of Culture, Self, Belonging, curated by Christian Dunbar-Hester and Bryce J. Renninger, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

The Coming Disturbance, curated by Zach Blas and Micha Cárdenas, MIX: 25th New York Queer Experimental Film Festival
Risky Business, The HTMlles 10: Feminist Festival of Media Arts + Digital Culture, Studio XX, Montréal, Canada

Selected Workshops
Facial Weaponization Suite: A Mask-Making Workshop, Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), Mexico City, Mexico

"Facial Weaponization Suite: A Mask-Making Workshop," Eyebeam, New York, NY
"Facial Weaponization Suite: Fag Face Scan Station," reclaim:pride, ONE Archives, Christopher Street West Pride Festival, West Hollywood, CA
"Facial Weaponization Suite: A Mask-Making Workshop," b.a.n.g. lab and Performative Nanorobotics Lab, University of California, San Diego
"Facial Weaponization Suite: A Mask-Making Workshop," REVERIE, Reed Arts Week, Reed College, Portland, OR

"Faces, Biometrics, and the Aesthetics and Politics of Recognition: A Mask-Making Workshop," Risky Business, The HTMlles 10: Feminist Festival of Media Arts + Digital Culture, OBORO, Montréal, Canada

Selected Press and Criticism

Claudia Arozqueta, "Teoría del color," Critics' Picks, Artforum, 2014
Lynn Berger, "Kunstenaar Zach Blas laat zien dat surveillance meer op het spel zet dan alleen onze privacy," de Correspondent, 2014
Müge Büyüktalaş, "Karşıt-cinsel post-internet ve tekno-gerilla," Art Unlimited 28, 2014
Kyle Chayka, "Fight surveillance by making it visible," Al Jazeera America, 2014
Ben Valentine, "Weaponizing Our Faces: An Interview with Zach Blas," Vice, 2014
Dan Weiskopf, "Picturing the Self in the Age Of Data," Art Papers July/August, 2014
Marie Lechner, "Le nouvel âge du camouflage," Libération, 2014
Magda Szcześniak, "Blending in and Standing Out – Camouflage and Masking as Queer Tactics of Negotiating Visibility," View: Theories and Practices of Visual Culture, 2014
Matthew Kellegrew, "The Surveillance State and the state of surveillance: What activism has to learn from art," The Bill of Rights Defense Committee, 2014
Kyle Chayka, "Biometric Surveillance Means Someone Is Always Watching," Newsweek, 2014
Emily K. Holmes, "Locating Technology: Against Recognition," Art Practical, 2014
Rebecca Hiscott, "'Fag Face' Mask Protests Sex Discrimination in Facial-Scanning Tech," Mashable, 2014
Hito Steyerl, "FutureGreats 2014: Zach Blas," Art Review March 2014
Johnny Magdaleno, "Is Facial Recognition Technology Racist?" The Creators Project, 2014
Kyle Chayka, "Facial Weaponization Suite," POSTmatter, 2014
"Beginnings + Ends," Frieze Issue 159 November-December 2013 (accompanying video)
Alicia Eler, "The Facelessness of Tomorrow Begins Today," Hyperallergic, 2013
Lauren Cornell, "Invisibility, or you can't disappear in America," Mousse Magazine 35, 2012


Performers & Participants: Kalvin Henely, Andrew Hibbard, Michelle Lee, Scott Kepford, Martabel Wasserman, David Evans Frantz, Christina Aushana, Ahmad Halis, Dorothy Lee, Mona Liu, Patrick Shin, Allison Spence, Oona Tikkaoja, Tahiez Toro, Dominic Bradley, Katrina De Wees, Anaze Izquierdo, Sara Lyons, Kirya Traber, Omar Aguilar, Mariana Arenas, Andrea Bravo, Helena Chávez, Rosa Almendra González, Claudia Hevia, Natalia Millán, Edalid Mendoza Orestes Montero, Daniela Negrete, Daniel Rodríguez Perez, Martin Rivera, Maria Cruz Rodríguez, and L. Salazar
3D Modeling: Scott Kepford, The Great Nordic Sword Fights, Sergio Del Castillo Tello, Danilo Gasques Rodrigues, and Fernando Nos
Fabrication: Machine Histories
Photography: Christopher O'Leary, Tanner Cook, David Evans Frantz, Dominic Paul Miller, Christine Butler, Orestes Montero Cruz, and Oliver Santana
Support: Medialab Prado, b.a.n.g.lab / Performative Nanorobotics Lab / Calit2 / Visual Arts @ UCSD, Eyebeam, Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo