What is it?

Using facial recognition hardware and a model provided by Google for schoolchildren in its “AIY Vision Kit,” sold at Target, this artwork scans for nearby faces. If each face is deemed sufficiently cheerful, they count towards a meter of “smiling faces.”

In low light levels, when the artwork senses a face, it uses a forward-facing white light to get a better view.

“Morale is Mandatory” is made with a combination of vintage and contemporary found objects. Its steel case is an industrial enclosure sold for electrical applications. The meter shown on its front face is a vintage Bakelite-cased milliampere meter with a WW2-era date stamp, with the internal label replaced with a contemporary pigment inkjet printed replica.

Facial recognition features in “Morale is Mandatory,” which uses a camera to detect smiling faces. Referencing the rise of algorithmic surveillance, it incorporates Google’s “AIY Vision Kit” (sold at Target), which teaches children how to use facial recognition, with no mention of ethical responsibilities in its learning material.

“Morale is Mandatory” alludes to technology’s power for supporting state-sponsored emotional monitoring, such as Bhutan’s “Gross National Happiness.”


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