Pittsburgh-based queer pop and experimental electronic artist 2020k's "b" music video opens with a shot of what looks like litter against a tree. It's not a prop, however; it's 2020k, covered in layers of plastic. As the lyrics kick in, the artist, whose real name is RJ Kozain, picks up a mic and reveals the plastic outfit and a face covered in paint and gems. The makeup technique used is called CV Dazzle, and it was created by Adam Harvey in 2010.
"CV Dazzle is not foolproof, but is meant to evade facial recognition software by focusing on asymmetry, avant-garde hair stylings, and/or other creative attempts at creating a sort of anti-face against facial recognition’s algorithmic scans," explains Kozain.
"b" is a cover of an iamamiwhoami track of the same name, and the video is a queer art piece that focuses on a lack of connection, self-sabotage, and protest issues that are currently happening across the country. Pittsburgh City Paper chatted with Kozain about the meaning behind the CV Dazzle and the meaning behind the music video.
What was your first reaction when you head the original version of "b"?
Words don't do it justice. I felt understood. iamamiwhoami have been making music that understands me for a decade. Thank you, ionnalee.
What is the significance of using CV Dazzle makeup techniques?
Using CV Dazzle is a supportive nod to the safety of the Black Lives Matter movement and a warning to the long-term, negative impact facial recognition algorithms could have on individual safety now and in the future. CV Dazzle throws off specific facial recognition algorithms as of now. I tested my iPhone lock screen, Instagram, and Snapchat filters to much success. Knowing technology changes, artistic intent does not, so even if my look in "b" doesn't trick an algorithm in the future, the message is still clear: be careful. I couldn't not make a statement.
The Black Lives Matter movement is at the highest amount of traction we've seen so far, and I live in a high-risk home for COVID-19, so in lieu of participating as a front line protester, I spent a lot of time online, specifically on social media, sharing resources for protesters in Pittsburgh, and learning. In learning, again and again, activists warned against filming protesters' faces for fear that they could be identified and targeted by law enforcement or individuals opposed to the movement. This targeting [is] done by the human eye viewing footage, yes, but could also theoretically be done using facial recognition software. I wrote about this in further length on this Instagram post.
How do you feel the piece touches on "a lack of connection, self-sabotage, and protest?"
There's lots of layers to all of the plastic in this video. Did you know that being wrapped in plastic isn't breathable? I wrapped the hell out of that tree, then gave that wood the most action it's ever witnessed in its life, but in the end, I couldn't see what was underneath it, so I retreated to my box, longing for the day I can step out of it again, perhaps for good. I'm an uncompromisingly queer electronic pop artist. One of the layers to this video is in empathy toward the desperation for authentic contact that we all crave sometimes.
We know about the push for safe sex through condoms and PrEP inside of the LGBTQIA+ community and it's alluded to in this piece. There are friends I worry about in and out of the community who self-sabotage their emotional well being and physical safety for the sake of pleasure, and when I listen to them and try to offer support, I see my own former behavior in them as well and understand it well.
In celebration of the music video, 2020k has released his cover of iamamiwhoami's "b" on Bandcamp for free.