Alumni Spotlight: Leo Selvaggio

Alumni Spotlight: Leo Selvaggio

Leo Selvaggio is a recent Graduate of the Interdisciplinary Arts & Media, MFA program and has been on a creative roll since graduating.  His project URME Surveillance has been getting a ton of attention recently including some articles in The Verge, Techcrunch, cnet and Hyperallergic.

The project began in an effort to provide the public of the city of Chicago, the most surveilled city in the U.S., a means of subverting these surveillance systems. As part of this effort, Leo has created a series of masks of himself so that the user can wear his identity.


This work is wonderfully timely in light of growing surveillance systems in our cities. There have been a number of artists exploring creative strategies for hiding from surveillance. Artists like Adam Harvey, Zach Blas, and Simone C. Niquille, have all been exploring tactics for hiding their identity from facial recognition software. What makes Leo’s work different is Rather than just applying materials to your face to keep the facial recognition software from recognizing your identity, Leo Offers his own identity for you to use. This means that the facial recognition software will recognize your face as his own and anything you do wearing one of his masks will be recorded by the software as if he did it.

Another unique feature of Leo’s masks is their affordability.  Some of the anti-surveillance wearables set their cost upwards of $2,500. Leo wants his products to be affordable, so he makes them available at cost. One of the options is a hyper-realistic prosthetic mask created in partnership with that costs only $200 dollars. He also has a $1 paper mask available that has been tested with facial recognition software. He even offers you the opportunity to print a paper mask for free with your own printer.

The URME Surveillence masks are only one of the many manifestations of Leo’s continuing line of inquiry exploring the idea of “Identity as data that can be manipulated, misrepresented and even corrupted.” Some of his other works on this theme include, URME Flash Mob, URME Polygons, Eyesights Surveillance Window, and URME Monument.

Most recently Leo was invited to participate in the Chicago Art Department show, Technologic, curated by Chuck Przybyl. For more information on Leo Selvaggio’s awesome work, check out his website at here.