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Melita Dahl

10.06.2021 - 10.07.2021

2.1 Melita Dahl, happy (0.96), 2019, Pig

Melita Dahl, happy (0.96), 2019, Pigment Ink Print on Archival Paper, 52.4 x 69.9cm

Portrait by ACT artist Melita Dahl investigates connections between traditions of fine-art portraiture, photography and facial emotion recognition (FER) software. FER is a rapidly developing algorithmic technology that alleges to measure variations in facial expression to detect emotional states, and predict behaviour. While its validity is contested, FER is now becoming integrated into marketing, retail, educational and security surveillance systems.


Dahl muses on how FER builds on the idea of the photographic portrait as a ‘window to the soul’. She draws our attention to the threat of a technology that seeks to determine our psychic state, and consequently encourage us to adapt behaviour in order to guard our internal condition. Through a series of posed and overwritten images, Dahl explores the idea of the ‘deadpan’ – or neutral – expression as a strategy for disrupting recognition algorithms. What would it mean for us all to keep our faces expressionless to protect ourselves from digital surveillance?

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