Race Code

Timo Wright

The race code is a emergent photography based installation that tackles with the issues of race, culture and perceptions of one’s self.

It is a computer program that tries to mimic the inner “selective” feelings that humans have towards each other. It is a semi-interactive installation where the viewer inputs into the race code of the program, but of which the user cannot have any control.

The viewer enters the exhibition space. On every surface a matrix of human faces is projected. Hundreds of faces looking straight forward each face about the same size of an average human face. At the entrance of the exhibition space there is a white small cubicle and a computer-operated camera. The viewer enters the cubicle and the camera takes a passport-like face photo using face recognition software. The photo is entered to the matrix immediately. Where the photo of the face is placed in the matrix, towards the top or bottom, happens according to the “race code”. A higher placing is a sign of a the viewer being in a higher race, a placement lower as being of a lower race.

The race code is a computer program that rates people’s pictures into “higher” and “lower” class “races”. It calculates using facial features which faces it rates to be of a higher race. These facial features are e.g. the distance of eyes from the distance of the eyebrows versus the distance of the nose from ears. The distance of nostrils versus the distance of forehead and chin.

But what differentiates it from phrenology or other made-up racist codes is that the rules that the program follow have nothing to do with reality or anything else for that matter. So the visitor will be rated according to a race (etc) standard that do not exist. One cannot affect how the program rates the person. By being confronted by the code about who one is and what value one has, the viewer must also confront him/herself and the beliefs about ones “rate” in a so-called race etc. standard. Conceptions of self are challenged in a concrete manner. It’s aim not only challenge one’s self, but also the whole idea of race as a distinction between people and peoples.

Production Year
Original Title
Race Code
Production Countries
Timo Wright (Author), Timo Wright (Director), Matti Niinimäki (Director)
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Timo Wright is a media artist based in Helsinki, Finland. Wright has graduated with MA degree from the Aalto University School of Art and Design in Helsinki in 2014. He has participated in domestic and international exhibitions since the mid 2000s including Kunsthall Charlottenborg (2017 & 2018), Samuelis Baumgarte Galerie (2017), Galerie Anhava (2016), Helsinki Art Museum (2013), Helsinki Design Museum (2012), Amos Anderson Art Museum (2012), Kunsthalle Helsinki (2012, 2010, 2009) and Helsinki Art Museum’s Kluuvi Gallery (2012),  as well as festivals such as IDFA, Slamdance, Nordisk Panorama, International Film Festival Rotterdam and  Japan Media Arts Festival. His films have been shown at over 70 festivals and exhibitions worldwide.