Beauty Is A Currency

  • Dates
    2022 - Ongoing
  • Author
  • Topics Archive, Contemporary Issues, Photobooks, Social Issues

Beauty Is a Currency aims to highlight failure, and challenge conventional standards of beauty by using the same tools the system is applying to get rid of the imperfection: AI, 3D software, photogrammetry, facial recognition applications, and more.

No one knew how to respond to that, the crimson port-wine stain on the right side of my face I was born with. My family didn’t know how to respond to that (it’s still the elephant in the room), and doctors didn’t know how to respond (in the ‘90s an expert wanted to take some of the skin from my ass to stick it on the birthmark), societies of different periods didn't know how to respond (for witch hunters birthmarks were “devil’s marks”, for Nazism potential reasons to conduct inhuman experiments in name of the pure race, for Ellis Islands’s agents one of the parameters to reject immigrants from entering in America, for Cesare Lombroso signs of criminal morals). 

In an experiment carried out in the subways of New York by Dr. Piliavin in 1975, to measure how often actors pretending to collapse on subway cars were receiving assistance, some actors were giving the appearance of having a port-wine stain on the left cheek, others were simply made up normally: help was offered significantly less often when the victim appeared to have a PWS. Bystanders also didn't know how to respond to that.

Contemporary AI-based systems don’t know how to respond to that: both entertaining “swap face” apps and more expensive beauty analytic reports by online consultant agencies, respond by ignoring the birthmark, getting rid of it, and considering only the conventional left side as input to generate their outputs. I was never satisfied with the response I was instructed to give if asked “ What happened to your face?”, and my interlocutor wasn't satisfied either.

With the project, “Beauty is a Currency”, I finally want to respond to that.

Beauty is a Currency” wants to investigate the complexity of being born with an imperfection like a crimson birthmark, a failure to be captured and corrected in an inevitably controlled system, where beauty is as potent a social force as race or sex, and where more money is spent on beauty than on education (USA) – 2023 showed a 19.3% overall increase in procedures performed by plastic surgeons.

Photo Editor: Viola Hasse (@violahasse)

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