Madhavi Bhagwat
is a Graphic & Experience Designer
based in London, UK.

NAZAR (2023)

What can the protective practices of the ‘Nazar’ (evil eye) teach us about navigating the optics of attention and surveillance in networked technology?

Exhibitions: ‘Intertwine’ London, The Pluralist︎︎︎

︎︎︎About the Project

The Installation

Nazar is an interactive installation that consists of a face detection algorithm designed to be lightweight, real-time and highly accurate using a convolutional neural network (CNN), Open CV in Python and Flask.
It has a live feed and can detect multiple users at once.

I designed a range of Neo-Amulets stickers inspired by the motifs and visual language of evil eye amulets, designed for wearability, visual interest and effective Dazzle. The participant creates their own unique tangible camouflage to evade the digital face detection algorithm.

︎︎︎Why Nazar?

The Installation

The concern around data privacy, biometric and facial recognition, and surveillance capitalism is only increasing by the day.

How to tell a story about protecting yourself from surveillance, while bringing in the familiar, widely used protective practices of using evil eye amulets?

My aim was to examine the similarities between today’s hypervisibility, surveillance, the evil eye belief found primarily in non-western cultures, and their relationship to the gaze.

︎︎︎Dazzle the Eye

The Process

Amulets confuse, misdirect, fascinate, dazzle the evil eye.

Evil Eye practices are designed to misdirect the malignant gaze. Instead of looking at you, it gets distracted by the amulet on your person or in the surroundings.

Translating that same property to surveillance, I built upon a face camouflage technique called CV Dazzle (created by Adam Harvey), which involves creating certain colourful patterns on your face to deflect face detection algorithms.

I designed and created a range of glossy stickers, inspired by the motifs and visual language of evil eye amulets, designed for wearability, visual interest and effective Dazzle.

︎︎︎Dazzle the Eye

The Installation

When you Dazzle yourself, you’re hyper-visible to other people. Everybody will look at you, but you’re invisible to computer vision. It repels a specific kind of gaze while allowing you to be visible- just like evil eye amulets.


Tangible Camouflage

Dazzle prevents face detection, the first step to face recognition. Participants designed their own tangible camouflage via the stickers to fool the digital algorithm with real time feedback.

It also had a built in feedback loop for participants to document their successful Dazzle “looks” on the poster that also explained the guidelines for effective CV Dazzle.

︎︎︎Watch the Show Video

© 2016-2024 Madhavi Bhagwat