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Discover Your Ancient Sculptural Doppelgänger

On the website of Quebec’s Musée de la Civilisation, facial recognition software will match your visage with a 2,000-year-old work of art.

Selfie of the author as the funerary mask of an unknown Egyptian woman (all screenshots by the author for Hyperallergic)

Quebec’s Musée de la Civilisation is currently searching for participants to feature in its upcoming exhibition My 2,000-Year-Old Doublewhich takes a pretty entertaining, very 21st-century approach to exploring the faces of ancient sculpture. The institution is inviting anyone to upload a selfie to its website, where facial recognition software will analyze individual details and compare them to those of 2,000-year-old statues. It will then match you with an ancient doppelgänger, and if you think you closely resemble your chosen sculpture, you can enter a contest to be one of 30 individuals the museum will highlight in the fall show.

All of this is part of a project by Montreal-based photographer François Brunelle, who has, for years, captured images of strangers around the world who look alike. Brunelle will shoot portraits of the selected winners that will be displayed in the museum next to their stony counterparts.

“I am fascinated by the similarities between two people who have different educations, different backgrounds, sometimes even different nationalities and yet look alike,” Brunelle says in a promotional video. “If I look like someone else, are the two of us alike? Are our lives similar?”

Drawn from the collections of Geneva’s Musée d’art et d’histore and Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, the 52 faces from antiquity that up for match are all Greco-Roman and Egyptian — which means a Southeast Asian gal like me is a sure-fire loser for the lookalike contest. But as an assiduous journalist bent on investigating the competence of the technology, I nevertheless uploaded my selfie to test the Betaface API service. It analyzed 123 landmark points on my visage before informing me that I resemble the funerary mask of a Roman “Unknown Woman,” which actually does bear a similar hairstyle to me (and impressively also sports a hair clip).

But I needed a larger pool of participants. So I requested that everyone at Hyperallergic drop their far less important duties and test out the recognition tool as well. Below, their selfies and ancient doppelgängers — from more unknown women and men to the Syrian aristocrat Ahata — speak to the farcical failures of this facial recognition experiment.

Selfie of Hyperallergic Senior Editor Jillian Steinhauer as “Unknown Woman”
Selfie of Hyperallergic News Editor Benjamin Sutton as “Unknown Man”
Selfie of Hyperallergic Associate Editor Elisa Wouk Almino as “Young Boy”
Selfie of Hyperallergic Staff Writer Allison Meier as “Head of a Man Wearing a Laurel Wreath”
Selfie of editor Oriana Leckert as “Ahata”
Selfie of Hyperallergic Producer Tiernan Morgan as “Unknown Woman”
Selfie of Hyperallergic Social Media Manager Lola Arellano-Fryer as statue of Ahata
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