Deep Hysteria (2023)

Deep Hysteria is a still image series that repurposes algorithmic bias in the service of unraveling a deep human bias.

 

The people in these artworks aren’t real. They are imaginary vloggers, generated using deep learning (“AI”) algorithms trained on still frames of thousands of YouTubers speaking to the camera. Generated individuals are then algorithmically regendered and the variations fed to commercial deep learning based facial analysis algorithms, which attempt to categorize the faces according to the emotion of the subject apparent in their facial expression. Despite the marketing of such tools, reading emotions solely by analyzing a person’s face is a feat that neither humans nor “AI’s” can reliably do. Further, these deep learning algorithms are themselves trained on data categorized by humans — so they reflect human biases.

Sequence of line drawings of a depicting a late 19th century woman in various poses stereotypically associated with stress or anxiety.
Sequence of drawings from 1893 depicting a woman with “hysteria.” By Albert Londe – La photographie médicale : application aux sciences médicales et physiologiques, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92886323
An “AI” rendering of “emotional women” generated using Stable Diffusion, 2023

For centuries, “hysteria” was a medical and mental diagnosis that assumed females had an innate predisposition toward an anxious and nervous emotional state. Although the diagnosis has been retired, stereotypes of women as nervous, fearful, and uncertain continue to impact how women are perceived and treated. And while more women than men are diagnosed with anxiety, a Google image search for “anxiety” returns a far disproportionate number of images of women — who tend to be depicted in stereotypical “female hysteria” poses. The stereotype is further augmented by the cultural expectation of smiling as women’s default facial expression. Consider the phenomena of “Resting Bitch Face” and “telling women to smile.” A neutral facial expression on a women is read as disgust, distress, or unhappiness: “What’s wrong?”

The artworks in Deep Hysteria redeploy the bias embedded in facial analysis algorithms in the service of probing this deeply entrenched social bias.

Complete info on Deep Hysteria here.

High resolution images are available for exhibition or publication.