Face is a multimedia composition for voice, violin, piano, recorders, live electronics and video, based around the use of facial and emotion recognition software. Face plays with how we see ourselves and each other by changing the familiar surface of the face with other representations, alternative portraits in image and sound. Face is the result of a search for poetry and beauty that, as so often, hides behind a questionable development. The piece navigates between the problematic practice of anthropometry in the early 20th century to the current use of emotional face recognition software, an ever-present aspect of our lives where the reading of the face is completely automated - stripped of ambiguity and removed from human intuitive perception.
The material of the work is based on music texts and images that combine in an essay-like form to create a critical and poetic perspective on the current use of face technologies. The music of Face, written for the virtuoso Electra ensemble, a quartet of voice, violin, recorder(s) and piano, combines acoustic and computer generated sound to create a hybrid music world, of the acoustic instruments and their synthetic doubles, like a digital mirror. During the performance these sounds were manipulated through the use of a camera and hacked face detection software, that mapped the face of the singer to the modulations of the sound.
Artist Johannes Schwartz uses an array of images, such as photographs of anthropological ‘life masks’ from the early 20th century, masks held in colonial museums, images of face used in fashion magazines and advertising. These moving and eerie images are set alongside live images made of members of Electra, using a photographic scanner that captures the face of the musicians as a line scan over an extended period of time, and transforms it into an almost unrecognisable landscape. Some of these images and the text of Maria Barnas are presented in large format in the 12 page inlay for the vinyl release.
The vinyl release of Face is a co-production between Unsounds and Roma Publications. It is designed by the studio Experimental Jetset, Amsterdam and distributed by Idea Books as well as Unsounds usual distributors.
Yannis Kyriakides is a composer and sound artist of Greek-Cypriot, British and Dutch nationality. He has created over a hundred and fifty works, comprising of audiovisual compostions, music theatre, installations and instrumental works that have recieved many prizes and performances around the world. On Unsounds, he has many releases, including some with the duo with guitarist Andy Moor, and with ensemble MAZE.
The all-female group ELECTRA unites internationally renowned performers in an unusual line-up. Diamanda Dramm (violin), Susanna Borsch (recorder), Michaela Riener (soprano) and Saskia Lankhoorn (piano).
Hailed by the New York Times as “viscerally thrilling…with an explosive energy”, ELECTRA is a powerful mix for a twenty-first century ensemble. ELECTRA works with established composers and discovers new collaborations, combining the latest new music with visual and theatrical elements. The ensemble performs amplified, creates highly original and critically lauded programs, and is constantly exploring new territory.
Johannes Schwartz is a photographer living and working in Amsterdam. At the Rietveld Academy, he has been head of the photography department (2004-2010), where he is currently still teaching. Awards include the Esther Kroon Award (1998) and the Cobra Kunstprijs Amstelveen (2007). He is one of the artists, together with composer Yannis Kyriakides, participating in ‘Opera Aperta / Loose Work’, the official Dutch entry to the Venice Biennale 2011.
Maria Barnas is an acclaimed Dutch artist, poet and writer. In 2015 Barnas won the Elisabeth van Thuringen Project prize, in 2008 she was awarded the Cees Buddingh’ Prize for her first collection of poetry ‘Twee Zonnen’ (2003) and ‘Jaja de oerknal’ (2013) was awarded with the Anna Bijn prize in 2014.