Curt Hagenlocher on Sun, 21 Apr 2002 12:05:06 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Computer-assisted Tolerance?

NEW YORK, April 19 - Ever want to see what you'd look like as Asian,
Middle Eastern, Hispanic, black, white or Indian? Anything you aren't?
Step into the Human Race Machine and find out. The machine is part of
"Seeing and Believing: The Art of Nancy Burson," a traveling retro-
spective that attempts to make an argument for human unity.

The show of 100 photos and multimedia works is on view at the Grey Art
Gallery in Greenwich Village through Saturday. It then travels to the
Blaffer Gallery in Houston, the Weatherspoon Art Gallery in Greensboro,
N.C., and beyond.

For those who miss the show, a Human Race Machine (there are several),
will be on permanent view at the New York Hall of Science in Queens as
of June.

"It's a weird feeling," said Kathy Zajchenko, a museum visitor in her
50s from Prattsburg, Penn. As soon as she sat down in the machine, she
glimpsed herself as a woman in her 70s (the machine also has an aging
function and also allows people to see how they might look with a facial
deformity). She then tried out a spectrum of ethnic groups.

"The Middle Eastern image worked pretty well for me," she said with a
grin as she stepped out of the machine for the next person in line.

"The machine is really a prayer for unity. ... It's about seeing through
our differences to sameness, it's like stepping into someone else's skin,"
said Burson, who added the database of Middle Eastern faces, both Arab
and Jewish, after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.

When you sit inside the box, the machine creates a digital image of your
face. You push some buttons, and, using a composite of various photos of
people of a certain ethnic group mixed with your own facial features, the
machine comes up with an image.

The resulting photo, while not always recognizable, is eerie.

"I've always wanted to allow people to see differently. I'm a documentary
photographer. I'm documenting the unseen, because what we can't see is so
much more fascinating that what we can see," Burson said.

Curt Hagenlocher

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