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Face, portrait, mask: The virtuality of the synthetic face

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With new technological artistic tools that allow us to author 3D computer generated faces that can be as real or as abstract or as iconified as we choose, what aesthetic and cultural communication language do we elicit? Is it the historically rich language of the fine art portrait ? the abstracted artifact of the human face? What happens when this portrait animates, conveying lifelike human facial emotion ? does it cease to be a portrait and instead moves into the realm of embodied face ? when it begins to emote and feel and possibly react to the viewer? Is it then more in the language of the animated character, or as we make it photo-realistic, the language of the video actor with deep dramatic back-story or simply as real as a person on the other side of the screen? A viewer can not be rude to a portrait but can feel that they are being rude to an interactive character in an art installation. When does it become not an embodied face nor portrait but a mask ? the icon that speaks of face but is never embodied? Masks also have a deep cultural, historic and ethnic language far different than that of human faces or art portraits. More eastern compared to the western portrait. Iconized faces (i.e. the smiley face or the emoticon face) takes the mask full through to the western modern world of technology.
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