Face Values

‘Face Values’ engaged emotion as a physical performance, inviting visitors to use their facial expressions to generate distinctive digital portraits and graphic displays.

In Cooper Hewitt’s Face Values installation, live facial data became the basis of dynamic graphic images and provocative conversations between humans and machines. Visitors were invited to perform emotions and transform identities by interacting with original digital works by R. Luke DuBois and Zachary Lieberman, framed by a canopy of synthetic reeds designed by Matter Architecture Practice. A visual essay by Jessica Helfand explored the historical context of facial analysis.

The exhibition explored alternative uses of technologies that were typically used for security, surveillance, and behavioural profiling. As identities mix, merge and reconfigure, visitors were invited to engage in emotional expression as mask and public performance. They learned how their facial movements could control the cameras and software and began to use their faces in unfamiliar ways to produce unexpected results, subverting the codes and habits of emotional expression. The results were shown on screens, which were gradually populated with an archive of unique forms.

“Face Values encourages participants to consider the vast capabilities and unforeseen consequences of this rapidly evolving field of digital design," said Caroline Baumann, director of Cooper Hewitt, “illuminating the potential of facial recognition technology to quantify, read and control our moods and movements.”

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Photography: Ed Reeve

Photography: Ed Reeve


Administering Body:

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum


Zachary Lieberman, R. Luke DuBois, Matter Architecture Practice, Jessica Helfand (Scholar)


Ellen Lupton at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Supporting Bodies:

Secretary/Under Secretaries of the Smithsonian and the Smithsonian National Board

2018 Exhibitors