Face Values

Face Values engages emotion as a physical performance, inviting visitors to use their facial expressions to control sound and graphic displays.

In Cooper Hewitt’s Face Values installation, live facial data becomes the basis of dynamic graphic images and provocative conversations between humans and machines. Visitors are invited to perform emotions and transform identities by interacting with original digital works by R. Luke DuBois and Zachary Lieberman, framed by a canopy of synthetic reeds designed by Matter Architecture Practice. A visual essay by Jessica Helfand will explore the historical context of facial analysis.

The exhibition explores alternative uses of technologies that are typically used for security, surveillance, and behavioural profiling. As identities mix, merge and reconfigure, visitors are invited to engage in emotional expression as mask and public performance. They will learn how their facial movements can control the cameras and software, and may begin to use their faces in unfamiliar ways to produce unexpected results, subverting the codes and habits of emotional expression. The results will be shown on screens, which will gradually be populated with an archive of unique forms.

“Face Values encourages participants to consider the vast capabilities and unforeseen consequences of this rapidly evolving field of digital design," says Caroline Baumann, director of Cooper Hewitt, “illuminating the potential of facial recognition technology to quantify, read and control our moods and movements.”


  • Administering Body: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
  • Designers: Zachary Lieberman, R. Luke DuBois, Matter Architecture Practice, Jessica Helfand (Scholar)
  • Curator: Ellen Lupton at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
  • Supporting Bodies: Secretary/Under Secretaries of the Smithsonian and the Smithsonian National Board