Matthias Dörfelt’s Face Trade is a work that asks viewers to trade a mugshot for a computer-generated portrait, but the transaction is recorded a blockchain semi-permanently.




What interests me about this work is how much the artist gets away with asking from the audience. The trade-off is unnervingly real; not only does the work promise to record your mugshot permanently, you can also see the records for yourself at this website. The tension that the work induces is very real and, for me, very hard to separate from the artistic intention of the work. I can’t help but recoil instinctively and accuse the work of being malicious in itself. I think the audaciousness of this piece makes it successful, and I would like to take away some of Dörfelt’s nerve in my future work.

Looking into Dörfelt’s past work reveals a deep practice in generative art and a recent exploration of blockchain as an artistic tool. This helps me contextualize the choice of using computer-generated portraits as the commodity of the transaction. Face Trade‘s generated portraits seem like an arbitrary trinket that just fills the description of “commodity which the user trades for” (which may very well be the point), but I can see how these portraits build on top of Dörfelt’s previous generative sketches. It’s interesting that in some ways the viewer is paying their identity to view Dörfelt’s next iteration as a maker.