London-based artist Antonio Daniele wants to foster empathy between complete strangers by making them share something extremely personal: their faces. In his latest exhibit, entitled “This is Not Private,” the visual artist has created video portraits of eight people, each of whom tells a story in a different language, tied to a different emotion. When a visitor stands in front of a screen, facial recognition software slowly merges their face with the person in the portrait. 

According to WIRED, Daniele built a facial recognition program that recognizes six basic emotions: Anger, fear, sadness, joy, disgust, and surprise. When a viewer expresses empathy, by matching the facial expression of the person on screen, the two faces begin to merge into one. 

Daniele believes that seeing oneself in the face of a stranger can be a powerful and visceral tool for creating empathy. “This work explores the possibilities of empathy as a meta-language through the most powerful physical interface which is our face,” he explains. “The more the viewer empathize with the actor the more the faces merge into a new identity which is no more the actor’s nor the viewer’s but something new.”

It seems there’s some scientific data to back up Daniele’s working theory. “The more similar you perceive the target subject to be to yourself, the more empathy you feel. That can include physical similarities,” Jennifer Gutsell, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brandeis University, tells WIRED.

[h/t: WIRED]

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