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Public Face II

2010
Julius von Bismarck, Benjamin Maus, Richard Wilhelmer

Mechanical neon light sculpture measuring the mood of the city.

Originally produced for the exhibiton PROVINZ in Lindau

Originally produced for the exhibiton PROVINZ in Lindau

This eight-meter-high smiley face, a sculpture made of steel and neon tubes, has been installed at different times on tall, prominent rooftops in Lindau, Berlin, and Vienna. Due to its immense scale, the sculpture becomes part of the skyline, and its varying expressions can be seen from far away. For example, it may seem angry, happy, sad, or surprised. The emotions conveyed by the sculpture are based on the facial expressions of local passersby, who are filmed by surveillance cameras. Their facial expressions are then analyzed by software created by the artists that uses algorithms developed by the Fraunhofer Institute. The machine is thus able to read the emotions on a person’s face. The installation Public Face uses these algorithms to make the changing, average emotions of city inhabitants visible to everyone in public space.

Installation on the former Philips headquarters in Vienna

Installation on the former Philips headquarters in Vienna

The project Public Face is about a huge smiley made of steel and illuminated by neon tubes. It displays the average mood of citizens. The system allows to read emotions out of random peoples faces. The faces are analyzed by sophisticated software (originally contributed by the Fraunhofer Institut). The obtained mood data is processed by the smiley which visualizes the emotions in real-time. The concept can be adjusted to the specific needs of any location. To capture the mood, cameras can be installed or existing video date can be obtained from any source (TV, Surveillance Cameras, etc) The original version of the smiley is about 8 meters tall and 5 meters diameter. It has yet been mount- ed on top of a light tower, a gigantic silo in the middle of Berlin and on top of the former Phillips headquarter in Vienna.

The face of the sculpture is able to change its emotion by moving three parts of the face independently. Mouth, upper halves of the eyes and lower halves of the eyes. This is possibly because those pieces are mounted on three axis connected to a gearbox and a motor allowing the pieces to rotate – e.g. turning the mouth by 180 degrees changes from a smile to a frown. The movement is without steps

Installation in Vienna

Installation in Vienna