Zach Blas lives and works in Toronto, CA, and London, UK
As an artist, filmmaker, and writer, my practice spans moving image, computation, theory, installation, and science fiction. I engage the materiality and politics of digital technologies while also drawing out the philosophies and imaginaries lurking in and around artificial intelligence, biometric facial recognition, predictive policing, airport security, and the internet. In Facial Weaponization Suite (2012–14), I ran a series of public workshops, where amorphous masks were created from the aggregated facial data of participants. These masks were then used for public interventions and performances to demand opacity against the reductive capture of biometric facial recognition systems. For example, the Fag Face Mask (2012), generated from the biometric facial data of many queer men’s faces, critically responds to scientific studies that claim sexual orientation can be determined through rapid facial recognition techniques. The masks of Facial Weaponization Suite attempt to intersect with social movements’ use of masking as an aesthetic tool of collective transformation that refuses dominant forms of political representation.
Other works contend with the beliefs, fantasies, and histories influential to Silicon Valley’s visions of the future. In the video installation Contra-Internet: Jubilee 2033 (2018), author Ayn Rand— the philosophical queen of today’s tech elite—time-travels to a future Silicon Valley being overthrown by queer militants. In the immersive multimedia installation The Doors (2019), a twenty-first-century psychedelia is imagined through the burgeoning nootropics industry (drugs designed to enhance cognitive capacities); artificial intelligence; and the motif of the lizard in neuroscience, 1960s counterculture, and internet-driven conspiracy theories. My most recent work considers how religion influences understandings and representations of AI. In the website 576 Tears (2022), an imagined AI god collects and trains on human tears in order to both access a divine form of communication and more thoroughly recognize, control, and influence the meaning and use of emotional expression.
Conflict in My Outlook: Don’t Be Evil, 2021, The University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane (AU)
Positions #6, 2020, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (NL)
… of bread, wine, cars, security and peace, 2020, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (AT)
The Unknown Ideal, 2019, Edith-Russ-Haus für Medienkunst, Oldenburg (DE) (solo)
SANCTUM, 2018, Matadero Madrid, Madrid (ES) (solo)
Contra-Internet, 2017, Gasworks, London (UK) und Art in General, New York City (US) (solo)