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Sustainable Prospects – Clément Lambelet

During my visit to FOAM Talent in Amsterdam, Clément Lambelet’s ‘Collateral Visions / Happiness is the Only True Emotion’ resonated with me and as so is worthy of its own blog post.

Lambelet describes his practice as “tied to society-based issues linked to human visibility. I am looking to explore the readability and visual comprehension of contemporary subjects such as the use of algorithms for human control” (C-lambelet.com, 2017)

The project considers the global issues of the privacy of individuals and how our faces can be reduced to a series of numbers and shape maps.  Lambelet questions the place of man and identification images of people within machines and algorithms used in face recognition software, which he notes, only recognise happiness.

“Even if it’s immediate, photography is never pure information. Despite its appearance of a transcription of reality, it remains free of interpretation – as evidenced by the need for legend in the press. But again, it’s both a limit and a force of the medium. The photographs that interest me contain little information. I prefer to present documents, such as press clippings or excerpts of scientific research alongside the images I produce. Their purely informative value contains an aspect that photography does not possess.”

– (Swissdesignawardsblog.ch, 2017)

The work on display resonated with me and work I have started to complete prior to the Amsterdam visit. In my previous blog post, I have considered the work carried out by  Martinez in relation to 21 emotional states.

I found Lambelet’s display of the work to be really fascinating. The layout reminds me of the books used in police identification procedures depicted in crime dramas on television.  It feels like an invasion of privacy of the people in the images. In particular, I am reminded of the police mugshots taken of Jeffrey Dahmer as seen in figure 1.

Figure 1: Jeffrey Dahmer – Milwaukee Police Department

The people whose images are shown are almost dehumanised by the display and this made me slightly anxious. The manner of display struck a chord with me and forced me to consider how many times my photo may have been taken by CCTV etc and digitised for future use.  Even coming through the face recognition passport control lanes makes me uneasy.  Are the images saved?  Who will look at them?  How will the information be used in the future? Lambelet cleverly took me to this train of thought.

The text above each image looks ominous. I initially thought that it was personal information about the images. At least, that is what it looked like from a distance. Close up I could see that each image was being evaluated in terms of different emotional states:

  1. anger

  2. contempt

  3. disgust

  4. fear

  5. happiness

  6. neutral

  7. sadness

  8. surprise

Alongside each emotion was a series of numbers that appear to be a computer algorithm’s interpretation of the face.

To me, this work is really relevant to my current work and is quite powerful in the way it has been presented.  I spent quite a lot of time studying the display.  I am inspired to continue with my facial expression work after seeing how effectively this could be displayed in a gallery setting.

Below are my visual record images taken in FOAM.

Lambelet is due to publish a photobook shortly that accompanies the project.  The book ‘Happiness is the only true emotion’ will further explore the failures of computer algorithms. I intend to try and get a copy of the book when it is published. Figures 2 and 3 below provide an indication of how the book will look.

Figure 2: Lambelet. Happiness is the only true emotion. 2016

Figure 3: Lambelet. Happiness is the only true emotion. 2016


C-lambelet.com. (2017). About ◐ c-lambelet.com. [online] Available at: https://c-lambelet.com/en/about/ [Accessed 25 Sep. 2017].

Swissdesignawardsblog.ch. (2017). Swiss Design Awards Exhibition Journal | CLÉMENT LAMBELET. [online] Available at: http://swissdesignawardsblog.ch/nominee/clement-lambelet/ [Accessed 25 Sep. 2017].


Figure 1: McPadden, M. and Colby, C. (2017). Crime History: The Death Of Jeffrey Dahmer And The Evolution Of Cruising Serial Killers – CrimeFeed. [online] CrimeFeed. Available at: http://crimefeed.com/2016/11/crime-history-the-death-of-jeffrey-dahmer-and-the-evolution-of-cruising-serial-killers/ [Accessed 25 Sep. 2017].

Figure 2: C-lambelet.com. (2017). Collateral Visions ◐ c-lambelet.com. [online] Available at: https://c-lambelet.com/en/projects/collateral-visions/ [Accessed 25 Sep. 2017].

Figure 3: C-lambelet.com. (2017). Collateral Visions ◐ c-lambelet.com. [online] Available at: https://c-lambelet.com/en/projects/collateral-visions/ [Accessed 25 Sep. 2017].

#Amsterdam #FOAM #September2017

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