Karen Lancel and Hermen Maat

Keynote performance/installation: Saving Face

SavingFace1When defining our identity and the identity of others, our sensory abilities are increasingly replaced by networked surveillance and identification technologies. How do we experience the way our body and identity are being ‘measured’ as functional and controllable products? Can touch based perception play again a role in experiencing the other’s identity? Saving Face reintroduces touch related perception in the digital and public domain with the help of a personal touching body scan. In the smart city context you are invited to touch and caress your own face; and in this way to compose an online networked identity to connect with family, friends and strangers worldwide.

In Saving Face you make your face visible on a big screen by touching your face. By caressing your own face you ‘paint’ your face on a large electronic screen. On the screen your face appears and merges slowly with the portraits of previous visitors. Your merged portrait on the screen shows a temporary identity, further transforming through every face-caressing act. Together you compose new, temporary, non-traceable, and non-controllable networked identities. All portraits are saved on a database. The portrait can be downloaded and printed on a Saving Face passport. Saving Face shows the identity as a temporal, social construction. Each self-portrait exists of socially generated traces of touching, which together show an ever transforming process based identity.


lancel and maatKaren Lancel is currently an artistic PhD candidate at the Technical University of Delft: Participatory Systems Initiative (prof. dr. Frances Brazier, dr. Caroline Nevejan). From 2008 to 2011, she was a member of the Amsterdam School of the Arts (AHK) research group ‘ARTI’ (Artistic research, Theory & Interpretation), and before that head of the interactive media art department (IME) at MFA Frank Mohr Institute Groningen. Hermen Maat teaches media art at the Minerva Art Academy Groningen and is part of the Minerva Academy research group on ‘Image in Context’ of dr. Anke Coumans.

Karen Lancel and Hermen Maat design objects, projections and digital networks to create ‘meeting places’ in cities public spaces. Each ‘meeting place’ or social sculpture functions as an artistic ‘social lab’ in which the artists invite their audience as co-researchers. The audience is invited to experiment and play with social technologies and to reflect on their perception of the city and their experience of body, presence, identity, and community. For every ‘meeting place’ they deconstruct existing communication technologies and strategies and design a new innovative, integrated montage and process of embodied and virtual interaction. The ‘meeting places’ are shown internationally in dynamic urban public spaces such as museums, squares, theatre halls, and train stations. Their work has been shown in for example Seoul, New York, Melbourne, Shanghai, Istanbul, Paris, London, and Amsterdam.