Shinji Toya | Paint Your Face Away | 2020 18.08. – 16.10.2020 | online


Design sketch for Paint Your Face Away, digital image, 2020 © Shinji Toya

Faces have become increasingly weaponised. They lie at the very centre of imaging systems that serve military activities and police forces. The rise of CCTV cameras around the world has been accompanied by operations of online face scraping – searching and collecting millions of portraits from the internet, creating vast databases of citizens’ faces from image search engines, social media platforms and more. This process, done mostly without consent, enabled the development of facial recognition systems like Clearwater AI. Employed by over 2’200 law enforcement agencies globally, this system is also being utilised by governments and its executive body for identification purposes during civil protests and political demonstrations.

The commissioned project Paint Your Face Away by the Japanese artist Shinji Toya addresses these issues of privacy and surveillance tied to the exploitation of online portraits for facial recognition. His browser-based application allows users to digitally paint their faces to the point where they become unrecognisable by systems of machine vision and surveillance. Toya’s public tool encourages the resistance to the oppressive use of facial recognition through the anonymisation and circulation of camouflaged self-portraits that avoid face scraping operations.

Access the project here:

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Kindly supported by Agorama.