The Aleph

10000 Faces at Funeral, The Aleph (Installation view), 2011,
Computer, LCD monitor, and custom-software, Variable dimensions


"The Aleph?" I repeated.

"Yes, the only place on earth where all places are -- seen from every angle, each standing clear, without any confusion or blending..."

<The Aleph>, Jorge Luis Borges

Seeing the world through photographs
Photographs are  a source of realistic and symbolic information about the world. A number of artists including  John Baldessari, Hans-Peter Feldmann and Joachim Schmid have explored social and cultural collectivity through found photographs since the late 1960s.

Photographs on the Web
The accessibility and materiality of photographs on the Web bring new possibilities to such a practice. Billions of annotated photographs taken from around the world are readily accessible, and the images can be automatically analysed and synthesized beyond physical limitations. The web photo archive provides a foundation to explore the world from new perspectives.

The Aleph
The Aleph' project attempts to realize the possibility. First, it searches for photographs by keywords from Flickr in realtime. Second, it extracts a given number of faces from the photos and save them in database with updating continually. Third, it composes a dynamic average face with the faces.

The collective face
Faces are windows into human nature. The face appearing on 'The Aleph' reflects the contextualized collective human face of the age.

' 'The Aleph' software written in Processing


The custom software searches for photographs tagged a typed keyword, 'funeral' in the figure', from the Flickr website in real-time, and extracts faces from the photos, resize them to 100 x 100 pixels and save the images. It keeps searching and extracting to maintain the amount of the faces to be a given number, 10,000 this time, and to keep the images updated, up to 100 new faces every 5 minutes this time. With the database of faces, it constructs 1000 x 1000 pixel moving images.


10000 Faces at Funeral, The Aleph (Conceptual architecture), 2011


The each composite image is constructed in the following manner. Initially, the composite image plane is divided into a 100 x 100 grid of cubes; the size of the each cube is to be 10 x 10 pixels. Then the system randomly chooses a face, which is composed of 100 x 100 pixels, from the database, extracts the a pixel and place it in the corresponding grid location of the composite image. For example, if the second pixel in the third row of the face image is chosen, the pixel is to be placed in the second cube in the third row of the composite image plane. Finally, after one million selection, an average face of the ten thousand faces is shown on the monitor. Besides, the composed face never remains the same since the composition is performed every second and the face image database is continually updated with recently uploaded photographs. 


The composition process



The source code for composing the collective face




 The documentary of 10000 Faces at Funeral, The Aleph, 2011



On the back part of the step, toward the right, I saw a small iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brilliance. At first I thought it was revolving; then I realised that this movement was an illusion created by the dizzying world it bounded. The Aleph's diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished. Each thing (a mirror's face, let us say) was infinite things, since I distinctly saw it from every angle of the universe. I saw the teeming sea; I saw daybreak and nightfall; I saw the multitudes of America; I saw a silvery cobweb in the center of a black pyramid; I saw a splintered labyrinth (it was London); I saw, close up, unending eyes watching themselves in me as in a mirror; I saw all the mirrors on earth and none of them reflected me; I saw in a backyard of Soler Street the same tiles that thirty years before I'd seen in the entrance of a house in Fray Bentos; I saw bunches of grapes, snow, tobacco, lodes of metal, steam; I saw convex equatorial deserts and each one of their grains of sand; I saw a woman in Inverness whom I shall never forget; I saw her tangled hair, her tall figure, I saw the cancer in her breast; I saw a ring of baked mud in a sidewalk, where before there had been a tree; I saw a summer house in Adrogue and a copy of the first English translation of Pliny -- Philemon Holland's -- and all at the same time saw each letter on each page (as a boy, I used to marvel that the letters in a closed book did not get scrambled and lost overnight); I saw a sunset in Queretaro that seemed to reflect the colour of a rose in Bengal; I saw my empty bedroom; I saw in a closet in Alkmaar a terrestrial globe between two mirrors that multiplied it endlessly; I saw horses with flowing manes on a shore of the Caspian Sea at dawn; I saw the delicate bone structure of a hand; I saw the survivors of a battle sending out picture postcards; I saw in a showcase in Mirzapur a pack of Spanish playing cards; I saw the slanting shadows of ferns on a greenhouse floor; I saw tigers, pistons, bison, tides, and armies; I saw all the ants on the planet; I saw a Persian astrolabe; I saw in the drawer of a writing table (and the handwriting made me tremble) unbelievable, obscene, detailed letters, which Beatriz had written to Carlos Argentino; I saw a monument I worshipped in the Chacarita cemetery; I saw the rotted dust and bones that had once deliciously been Beatriz Viterbo; I saw the circulation of my own dark blood; I saw the coupling of love and the modification of death; I saw the Aleph from every point and angle, and in the Aleph I saw the earth and in the earth the Aleph and in the Aleph the earth; I saw my own face and my own bowels; I saw your face; and I felt dizzy and wept, for my eyes had seen that secret and conjectured object whose name is common to all men but which no man has looked upon -- the unimaginable universe.

<The Aleph>, Jorge Luis Borges


The images below have been created by 'The Aleph' using photographs tagged by different words or phrases, and different number of face database.


10,000 faces, "funeral" 


10,000 faces, "birthday party" 


1,000 faces, "divorce"


1,000 faces, "wedding"


1,000 faces, "end"


1,000 faces, "start"


1,000 faces, "hatred"


1,000 faces, "love"


1,000 faces, "evil"


1,000 faces, "good"