The Face

A Search for Clues
19. Aug 2017 - 25. Feb 2018

Dot, Dot, comma, Dash - and nothing else?

We see faces every day, often in personal, face-to-face encounters. But it’s much more than that: They constantly look back at us as portraits of prominent personalities in glossy magazines or on our computer screens, as selfies on the Internet, from posters and from paintings. Innumerable cameras and databases save images of faces. How does this ubiquitous media presence alter our relationship to the face itself? What influence does it have on our self-image and our communication? The exhibition seeks to explore such questions.

Most encounters with others begin by looking at their faces, and what we see there helps to form our first impressions. We frequently judge people by their faces or associate them with a social group. But how can we be so sure that someone is friendly or arrogant? And, what do others read into our  faces?

Nothing can be done about one’s face ‒ or so it’s said. It’s a part of the body that nature has given us. Still, we don’t just leave it at that. Every day we attend to our faces in front of a mirror with makeup, tweezers and razors. What conceptions about ourselves are we pursuing? Which societal norms and fashions? And do our faces first become complete when we expose them to the views of others?

Artists

Christoph Amberger, Marta dell’Angelo, Brassaï, Thorsten Brinkmann, Broomberg & Chanarin, Claude Cahun, Chuck Close, Kate Cooper, Sterling Crispin, Hilde Doepp und Charlotte Rudolph, Moritz Fehr, Marc Garanger, Bruce Gilden, Asta Gröting, F.C. Gundlach, Gottfried Helnwein, Rudolf Herz, Peter Hujar, Peter Keetman, Jens Klein, Jan Kříženecký, Martin Langhorst, Robert Lebeck, Helmar Lerski, Jasper van Loenen, Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler, Robert Longo, George Maciunas, Ana Mendieta, Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, Paul Mobley, Zanele Muholi, Martin Munkácsi, Marcel Odenbach, Zaher Omareen und Ibrahim Fakhri, Joanna Rajkowska, Matt Willey und Giles Revell, Nous Sommes Bobby Watson, Leonardo Selvaggio, Cindy Sherman, Shinseungback Kimyonghun, Taryn Simon, Studio Braun, Ivonne Thein, Moritz Wehrmann and Andy Warhol

Exhibtion chapters

THE FACE AS FORM

The infinite variety of faces is based on naturally occurring differences as well as changes caused by aging. This diversity is also the result of cosmetic modifications to the face, through which we often express and define ourselves. How we look is therefore shaped by our physical appearance as well as by cultural standards and changing ideals of beauty.

FACIAL EXPRESSION

Facial expressions help us to interact with others. People are able to intuitively and spontaneously read facial expressions. And yet we don’t always understand what is being conveyed, which results in misunderstandings and our being puzzled by some reactions. Computer programs are now supposed to help decipher the emotional range and subtlety of our facial expressions. But is this software able to deliver on its promise? And do we really want it to?

DOT, DOT, COMMA, DASH

Just a few marks are enough for us to recognize eyes, nose and a mouth – in the clouds, for instance, or on the side of a building. Current software techniques function in reverse, dissolving faces into data patterns in order to be able to identify and utilize them. Digital facial recognition may soon be monitoring us at many locations, such as train stations and department stores, but also in other public places.

THE FACE AS PORTRAIT

For centuries people have chosen to immortalize themselves in portraits. They have created and continue to create an image of themselves as well as a public representation. Portraits also show the diverseness and variability that can be found within a single face. Since the invention of photography, it has been possible for anyone to take a picture of him or herself and to disseminate it. How will future developments in the media alter our view of faces and how we deal with them? Will the face-to-face conversation continue to epitomize our culture of dialogue?



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