Classification Cube (2019) is an immersive art installation which invites viewers to interact with a machine-learning classification system. Inside a seemingly private space, participants are confronted with two side-by-side screens. One screen shows a live feed video stream of the viewer’s body, subjected to an immediate analysis of the ML system. The outcomes of this analysis instantly present real-time estimations of the viewer’s age, gender, emotion and action. The other screen shows a pre-recorded video of a diverse group of animated figures, representing realistic yet unusual combinations of body features and movements. These figures are subjected to the same ML analysis.
The immediate capture and analysis of one’s body along with the comparison to other bodies turns Classification Cube into a platform for exploration. While spending more time inside the installation, viewers become aware of the coupling between the body and the information produced; external appearance, ourselves and of others, serve as one of the system’s inputs. Viewers mostly notice that the system often produces results which do not align with the way we see ourselves and identify. This understanding questions the ability of such systems to classify us ‘correctly’. The analysis of different bodies brings awareness regarding the way humans classify one another vs. the way machines do so. Lastly, the real time nature of the installation invites viewers to try to modulate the outcomes of their own classification by engaging in a performative behavior. This kind of entanglement between the viewer and the system exposes our ability to somewhat control the way such systems ‘see’ us. If we can control our visibility through the lens of ML systems, maybe we can consider these systems as platforms for radical identity transformations.
Assuming a future of constant ML visibility in the public sphere, Classification Cube can serve as a prototype for a futuristic wardrobe with an ML mirror in it. Inside such space we can privately examine our technological visibility and shape a performance which can later be carried out proudly, in a street where we appearance is constantly detected.