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An Artist Challenged Corporations to Steal Her Biometric Data by Putting it on a Billboard

Andrew Nunes

Jillian Mayer reclaims her personal data from corporations in a guerrilla advertising campaign.

For better or (more likely) for worse, humans are increasingly transforming into data points, becoming little more than sets of numbers and marketable information for corporations and conniving institutions. While many may be aware of this societal shift stimulated by social media and digital culture, rarely are tactics for combating the commodification of our everyday habits and actions discussed. In light of this, artist Jillian Mayer has taken matters into her own hands with Impressions, a billboard and video campaign which sees the artist appropriate her own, personal datasets back from corporations.

Focusing on facial biometrics, the technology employed by products and companies using facial recognition, Mayer placed billboards across Los Angeles and New York displaying large images of her own visage with her specific facial measurements mapped out, accompanied by almost poetic texts discussing the ramifications of her facial biometrics.

The project is the result of a long-term preoccupation the artist has had with contemporary marketing tactics. "I've always had an interest in modular identity and advertising. I am aware that my existence is ultimately consolidated into another person's understanding of me as a metric in a demographic," Mayer tells Creators. "You can go ahead and modify any part of you that you desire, but you still add up to something valuable for someone's business."

"My face is a set of points and measurements between features," reads one of the artist's billboards. "Already, I am aware of my height and width at several varying points on my body. These are the ways I am identified, grouped, and advertised to. I have mapped and memorized my facial measurements as they relate to each other. This is how I identify myself personally and externally. I do this exercise every five years. You should do the same."

Through this hypnotic mantra, Mayer publicly reclaims her own facial information and beckons the public, who typically consumes visual information on billboards passively, to engage in this form of self-activism as well. Although this act is unlikely to deter hyper-capitalist data collecting from happening, it is certainly an important step towards bringing awareness to an otherwise camouflaged process we are all inevitably a part of today.

Mayer's LA and NYC billboards for Impressions have already been taken down, but the project will continue in other iterations, including recently-released campaign videos, viewable here and here. More of Jillian Mayer's conceptual investigations can be perused on her website.

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