Lauren Huret’s concise video loop Face Swap (present) presented shortly after her work Face Swap (past) offers a mirror for the reflection of how our identities are usurped by our smartphones. Here, instead of seeing the artist at her desk in front of her computer screen, we find her posed with her smartphone in a barren wintery landscape in Utah, with the minimalist concrete bunkers of the NSA Data Center in the background. As in Face Swap (past), the viewer is confronted with a featureless black face that cannily resembles a smartphone background. In turn, the protagonist’s isolated face peers out from the smartphone screen. We see her left hand nervously exploring her own neck, an absurdly futile gesture in view of the gaping black hole above it. Similarly, the detached face’s scrutiny of her body fails to establish any unity of identity between the two. Her agitatedly drumming fingers on her left knee seem to embody the impatient waiting for new input from the mobile device.
Questions about the effects of outsourcing human senses and emotions to machines have been in the public discourse for decades, postulated by Marshall McLuhan, Paul Virilio, and others, in their discussions of media aesthetics in the 1990s. Certainly, the publication of Yuval Harari’s book Homo Deus in 2015, raises their pertinence to our lives today. Following Harari, Huret arrives in the present of humankind’s accelerating progress in the fields of genetic research and artificial intelligence, where she draws attention to the apps on our smartphones, which, according to the Israeli historian, already know more about us than we know ourselves. The NSA Data Center in the background might be the source of the next instruction the impatiently jiggling fingers await.
(Text: Bettina Back)
Lauren Huret (*1984) lives and works in Geneva.