(un)mask is a short film about the near future of affective, immaterial labor. Cameras—owned by advertisers and the state—pervade our physical spaces. Hypersensitive to facial expression data, corporations and government entities capture and exploit it, offering new modes of biopolitical control through a commodity we cannot help but give away.
Drawing on discourses about immaterial labor and the increasingly sophisticated face-tracking technologies embedded in surveillance systems and tools to measure the effectiveness of advertising, (un)mask suggests that every facial expression is a valuable piece of data—affective labor that advertisers and government agencies can use to make inferences about us and make recommendations to us, algorithmically anticipating our actions and more deeply enmeshing themselves in our daily lives. The film aims to question what avenues of resistance are available to us, and suggests that by over-emoting and thus overflowing the databases of facial expression recognition data with a flood of affect, we can confuse those aiming to exploit this data and devalue it as a commodity.
About the filmmaker: Zach Kaiser is an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design and Experience Architecture in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design at Michigan State University. A designer and music producer, he earned his MFA from the Dynamic Media Institute at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2013. He has exhibited and lectured both in the U.S. and internationally, including recent appearances at the IMPAKT Festival in Utrecht, The Netherlands, and Relating Systems Thinking and Design 3, in Oslo, Norway. When he’s not worrying about the algorithmic mediation of daily life, Zach can usually be found opining to the nearest passerby on why his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, is the greatest city in the world.