Project Hyperessay #1: Amazing and Freaking out the Internet



Out of all the micro-projects that we have worked and embarked on so far, I felt that the Collective Body was the most amusing and interesting. It made me chuckle and I like how in this body of work, we are able to make small contributions to form a larger picture as a whole. The collective artworks creates an alternate form of narrative; open to the audiences’ interpretations. Although the idea of tweaking photographs to create a new image is not new, it never ceases to create reactions and amuse or even frighten the audience. The reactions an artist hopes to get can be planned… however, there is no guarantee how the audience might react to the work.

I thought about John’s use of the camera app on one of our Adobe Connect Sessions and recently,
I downloaded an app on my smartphone called FaceSwop. An example of a FaceSwop:


I find this idea somewhat similar to the Collective Body and has the potential to explore some of the topics I hoped to bring out in my Video Selfie: which was to show how we hide behind our computer screens, or rather, avatars as a form of disguise or masquerade. We reconstruct ourselves and choose which fragments of our personalities to showcase on the Internet. Therefore, I did more research on FaceSwaps and found the CLMTrackr by Audun Øygard:


CLMtrackr is an open-source JavaScript project that lets you “try on” faces of celebrities and other notable figures. To accurately capture your facial movements, the virtual model plots 70 reference points on your face and uses them to add effects to the masks in real time.”
-Audun Øygard, CLMtrackr, Artists’ Statement


Building on face-tracking algorithms from a group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, Øygard’s self-built Javascript library follows 70 points on your face in real time. Tilt your head, wiggle your eyebrows, or stick out your tongue, and the virtual visage remains stretched over yours all the while. The concept is novel and participation is simple. Simply go to the website. Allow them access to your webcam and you’re all ready to go. To some, turning on their webcams would mean they’d need to get ready and actually be prepared for a photo. For the ladies, some dabbing of lipstick and for men maybe more wax on the hair… (p.s You don’t even have to look super presentable for this; after all, it isnt your face per se!)

Here’s my stab on the CLMtrackr! Can you guess who’s “masks” are on my face…
(Apparently the first is Justin Bieber and second is George Clooney?!?!?!?)

Screen shot 2014-10-03 at 12.04.39 PMScreen shot 2014-10-03 at 12.13.46 PM

The presentation is slightly rough though as the system is flawed and sometimes is not able to accurately detect your face. (at one point they had the mask on the blue painting behind me, but I couldn’t catch that moment and capture a screenshot on time [glitch?] ):

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Øygard explains, “Face substitution is one of the things which probably will get much better over time and we’ll see it pop up more places.” With a very prospective future ahead, the development of digital technology is looking to be encompass more interactive and user-friendly improvements.

Øygard made his software citing Faces as his reference. Faces is an interactive installation by Arturo Castro and Kyle McDonald, extending work on face substitution. The piece resembles a mirror where people get their face swapped.. It takes advantage of the unique experience of slowly recognizing yourself as someone else.

He published the above video to do some kind of research; to see what people reactions are. Vimeo commenters are already chiming in about possible uses. “Would be useful for chatroulette,” replied Vormplus. The software provides an uncanny experience of being someone else elicits peoples responses; laughter, surprise, repulsion.

The installation is based on the idea of wishing for a new identity: when the subject first steps up, they see their face unmodified. After closing their eyes to make a wish and opening them again, they discover they are wearing a new face. The result is a mixture of a playful, surprising and some times scary experience.” – Arturo Castro, Artists’ Statement


Castro then created an exhibition following the exhibition. Knowing that it takes approximately one second for someone to respond to a completely unexpected event, he stored a photograph at 1.5 seconds after the swap – capturing that moment of realization. So far, the reactions aren’t what Castro expected. “I was expecting creepy and fun/hilarious,” he says. “But I was a little surprised by the people who say ‘Oh, the future is scary.'”

I find it interesting how the artists’ opinions often varies with that of the audience in works like these. One can not expect a clear and definite answer to what the audience’s reactions and opinions might be. Therefore, perhaps we could an open online database in the form of a website that publishes the captured pictures and uploads it in real time to the internet. This is accompanying an interactive setup with the cameras and screens possibly at the ADM lobby. The setup could be somewhat like Nicholas Maigret’s Pirate Cinema. In this way, we could create an installation that interactive, participatory, and multimedia-based; using our social interactions.

On the proposed site, we could provide a “shared record” of all the real-time faceswops. It is a “collective blog” that is updated and constantly changing. Additionally, the implementation of twitter feeds and an opinion section allow the public to engage with the website and make their interactions with the website and its content, and their opinions public knowledge. The website promotes the event/installation and allows the viewer to learn more. There could also be “share to twitter”, “share to facebook” and “share to flickr” widget buttons so that audience can share the experience with their friends, family and acquaintances who might not be physically present in ADM to experience it. Using and supporting open source software and garnering more attention to its availability can also help drive greater awareness on how the open innovation model and open source technology can help drive innovation and pave way for great ideas.

Aside from the option of sharing photos/videos from the website to social media, we could also implement comment boxes on each photo/video that helps promote conversations. Some people can pen down what they think, ask questions and others can possibly respond and give answers. It speaks to the dynamics and evolving nature of the website’s subject. In this way, we can take full advantage of interactive interface and connectivity to multiple social cultures and micro-cultures. After all, Net.artists have built digital art communities through an active practice of web hosting and web art curating. Constantly finding new ways to share public space.

We could also explore beyond using faces of celebrities. We could take pictures of peers, faculty and even administrative assistants as masks. (This would of course require prior permissions to use their photo/faces – Much like Eva and Franco Mattes Life-Sharing – but Face-Sharing HAHA) People can take a stab at guessing who’s face was merged with who’s or with who’s body.. or one might even want to tag themselves in the post and receive realtime updates if people like or leave comments on the photo to promote more interaction. Having a “Most Viewed/Commented” on the website column also is a wonderful interactive element. The viewer can learn about what swaps others on the site enjoy and it personalises the experience for everyone.

And as cameras and videogame systems become even further intertwined, you could imagine how this sort of technology could be applied. We could even have interactive face-swop video greetings like this at the adm lobby:

SOME TECHNICAL ASPECTS: Developed using openFrameworks and the Facetracker library through Kyle McDonald’s ofxFaceTracker addon for OF All the code is open source and can be found in this github repository.

7 thoughts on “Project Hyperessay #1: Amazing and Freaking out the Internet

  1. Wild! Faceswapping certainly ties in with the idea of identity multiples, which we will explore in a few weeks. I like the idea of how this project lends itself to a kind of carnival quality: you enter into the booth and try on a new face, much like you might go behind a cardboard figure and superimpose your face through a hole. It plays with our fascination for personal transformation and the mutability of identity, role playing and masquerade. I look forward to discussing!

  2. Mj Quek

    I love your concept. Mad love!

    There is so much to discuss and expand upon. And virtual face-swapping reminds me of the desperation and craze over plastic surgery that people are craving for. This concept could potentially be the mirror that reflects and shows people about unique, individualistic beauty.

    I’m casting my vote for your final project concept. 😀

    #IAmAHugeFan #WhyDidntIThinkOfThis #GENIUS

    • Aw thank you mj. I didn’t think about the plastic surgery craze but thanks for bringing it up! Can see how it would make an alternative statement while also addressing the multiple identities of netizens 🙂

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