Level of Confidence is an art project to commemorate the mass kidnapping of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. It was released on March 26, 2015, exactly six months after the kidnapping took place.
The project consists of a face-recognition camera that has been trained to tirelessly look for the faces of the disappeared students. As you stand in front of the camera, the system uses algorithms to find which student’s facial features look most like yours and gives a “level of confidence” on how accurate the match is, in percent. The biometric surveillance algorithms used – Eigen, Fisher and LBPH – are typically used by military and police forces to look for suspicious individuals whereas in this project they are used to search for victims instead. The piece will always fail to make a positive match, as we know that the students were likely murdered and burnt in a massacre where government, police forces and drug cartels were involved, but the commemorative side of the project is the relentless search for the students and the overlap of their image with the public’s own facial features.
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, born in 1967 in Mexico City, received a B.Sc. in Physical Chemistry from Concordia University in Montréal in 1987. He is a faculty associate of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. Electronic artist, develops interactive installations that are at the intersection of architecture and performance art. His main interest is in creating platforms for public participation, by perverting technologies such as robotics, computerized surveillance or telematic networks. Inspired by phantasmagoria, carnival and animatronics, his light and shadow works are “antimonuments for alien agency”. His large-scale interactive installations have been commissioned for events, such as: the Millennium Celebrations in Mexico City (1999), the European Capital of Culture in Rotterdam (2001), the UN World Summit of Cities in Lyon (2003), the opening of the YCAM Center in Japan (2003), the Expansion of the European Union in Dublin (2004), the memorial for the Tlatelolco Student Massacre in Mexico City (2008), the 50th Anniversary of the Guggenheim Museum in New York (2009) and the Winter Olympics in Vancouver (2010). Recently, the subject of solo exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Fundación Telefónica in Buenos Aires and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. He was the first artist to officially represent Mexico at the Venice Biennale with a solo exhibition at Palazzo Soranzo Van Axel in 2007. He has also shown at Art Biennials and Triennials in Havana, Istanbul, Kochi, Liverpool, Montréal, Moscow, New Orleans, Seville, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney. Collections holding his work include the MoMA in New York, Tate in London, AGO in Toronto, CIFO in Miami, Jumex in Mexico City, DAROS in Zurich, Borusan Contemporary in Istanbul, MUAC in Mexico City, 21st Century Museum of Art in Kanazawa, MAG in Manchester, MUSAC in Leon, MONA in Hobart, ZKM in Karlsruhe, MAC in Montréal and SAM in Singapore, among others. He has received two BAFTA British Academy Awards for Interactive Art in London, a Golden Nica at the Prix Ars Electronica in Austria, “Artist of the year” Rave Award from Wired Magazine, a Rockefeller fellowship, the Trophée des Lumières in Lyon, an International Bauhaus Award in Dessau, and the Governor General’s Award in Canada. He has lectured at Goldsmiths college, the Bartlett school, Princeton, Harvard, UC Berkeley, Cooper Union, USC, MIT MediaLab, Guggenheim Museum, LA MOCA, Netherlands Architecture Institute, Cornell, UPenn, SCAD, Danish Architecture Centre, CCA in Montreal, ICA in London and the Art Institute of Chicago.