Resident: Fabiola Larios

MissUniverseGAN (2021) progress150.4 Fabiola Larios for Agora Digital Art

Project concept: MissUniverseGAN

Words from the Curator and Moderator: Mishelle Brito | Ed. Juliet Rennie  |  1 June 2021

  • MissUniverseGAN (2021) progress150.1 Fabiola Larios for Agora Digital Art
  • MissUniverseGAN (2021) progress150.5 Fabiola Larios for Agora Digital Art
  • MissUniverseGAN (2021) progress150.6 Fabiola Larios for Agora Digital Art

AI, facial recognition and surveillance are transforming our understanding of beauty. Agora resident, Fabiola Larios uses Digital Art and machine learning to explore and question the evolution of beauty standards.

“And here she is, Miss Universe. 18 years old, Armi Kuusela of Finland. The world beauty queen is a golden blond, 5’5” tall, 110lbs”.The first Miss Universe pageant took place in the United States in 1952, crowning its queen and declaring her the most beautiful woman in the world.   Emphasising hair colour and weight as symbols of beauty, has the advancement of technology altered these limiting beauty standards for women today?

What’s the first thing you do after snapping a selfie and before uploading it to your socials? Perhaps add a filter? Adjust the brightness or sharpness of the image? Or, do you go a step further and use an app to edit a blemish, narrow your nose, or maybe even your hips?

The popular app, Facetune was ‘downloaded more than 160 million times according to its website and saw a 20% increase in usage at the start of the pandemic, reporting 1 million to 1.5 million retouched photos exported every single day.’ (source) A world away from 1952, for many people, especially women, the need to portray a picture-perfect aesthetic has led to an explosion of companies creating and embedding Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies into their product offerings. This surge in so-called beautification apps like Facetune2 are revolutionising modern beauty standards. 

Current Agora resident, interdisciplinary Mexican artist Fabiola Larios, explores this particular intersection of AI and beauty with Digital Art. Larios’ artwork dissects how technologies such as AI, facial recognition and surveillance, coupled with our  internet personas, contribute to a new ideal of computer-generated beauty.

Larios is one of a growing number of women AI/Machine Learning researchers and artists, using Digital Art to examine techno-political environments, whilst deconstructing the discourses around artificial intelligence and data. Being one of the few AI/Machine Learning artists in Mexico (coincidentally home to Miss Universe 2021, Andrea Meza ), Larios’ digital artworks revolve around culturally relevant topics such as identity and self-representation. Her previous work: “Internet Humans – A Selfie of the Internet”, explores machine learning and ‘selfie augmentation,’ through distorted mirror-reflections of combined social-media users performing through face-filters on social platforms. 

Her current project, MissUniverseGAN examines the evolution of beauty standards from the inception of the Miss Universe pageant in 1952 to the present day. Using a Machine Learning model through image extraction, Larios’ created a dataset of the Miss Universe participants to determine the fictional future of beauty standards. 

In a world where Instagram models are the new beauty queens, tweaking, modifying, and altering our self-image means the line between au natural and filtered beauty has become increasingly blurred, contributing to unrealistic beauty standards and ideals. Larios will present and interpret the results of her work during her upcoming talk, MissUniverseGan – Generated Beauty Standards, exposing us to our often distorted perceptions of reality and allowing us to ask whether beauty truly lies in the eye of the beholder?

Join us for MissUniverseGan – Generated Beauty Standards |  9 June at 18:30  GMT

Fabiola Larios, MissUniverseGAN – interpolation excerpt (2021) © Courtesy of the artist.

Agora Talk

Artist’s Portfolio

Fabiola Larios, Internet Humans (2020) © Courtesy of the artist.
Fabiola Larios, Progress Selfie RunwayML II  (2020) © Courtesy of the artist.

The self-portrait is a category of image. A public image, a self-representation, a reflection that has morphed from 17th century painted portraits, all the way to 21st century accessible selfies on the internet and social media. The “Internet humans: A selfie of the internet” project came out of my curiosity to explore a distorted mirror-reflection of combined social-media users performing through face-filters on social platforms. I wanted to see the results of all these faces, textures, colors and forms.

Fabiola Larios, I want to be a Cyborg  (2020) © Courtesy of the artist.

Full of cables, connected to the internet, to the phone, and still trying to be part human living with the desire of being a robot, different from the concept of robots in movies wanting just to be a normal human, some humans just don’t want that.

About the artist

Can the algorithm become physical? Fabiola Larios shows us how our digital self-representations can inform a greater understanding of the anthropology of social media.
Fabiola Larios (b. 1986, Mexico) is an interdisciplinary Mexican artist. Her work tackles questions about identity, vulnerability, and the presentation of the self online. Through the use of machine training and information and image extraction, Larios asks us how we declare and maintain autonomy over our internet personas in order to bring attention to the seemingly daunting control the internet has over-representation. Through her work, she plays with the dystopia of machine learning and the effects it has on the way people are perceived in real life. In doing so, Larios alters reality and presents fantastical images, poking fun at the selfie and digital avatar. Her medium allows her to suspend facial recognition and manipulate it, reinforcing value in the imaginary, while challenging social media’s portrayal of its users.

Artist’s statement

I’m interested in the current techno-political environment surrounding data sensitivity and surveillance capitalism, through the historical context of appropriation in contemporary art. The issues of data sensitivity and privacy in regards to machine learning, how we treat our information with such little care that it is easily available to be used for profit, advertising campaigns, and against us at our expense. Accessible data on the internet is now public property for computational and economic gains.

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