Cornford and Cross
10 1998

First exhibited in the Montage Gallery, Derby, England






10 consisted of a beauty contest judged by facial recognition software. In this contest, all personal traits that may be socially acquired were excluded; entrants were judged only on their facial beauty. The judging process was presented as free from human error and bias: entrants’ faces were photographed under controlled conditions, then analysed using police and security facial recognition software. The computer compared contestants’ faces to an ‘ideal’ of symmetry and proportion and then selected the winners from its own numerical ranking of the scores.We gave away our artists’ fee of £3,000 to the winners.

In a spirit of fairness and equality of opportunity, the contest was open to all men and women over the age of sixteen years who lived, worked or studied within the Derby City Challenge area. Entry was free, and expenditure on clothes, make-up or portrait photographs did not offer entrants any advantage. Connecting art with life, 10 directly linked the Montage Gallery with people in the City Challenge area through their active participation in the project and subsequent debate, rather than through a conventional social documentary survey.

This project took place in the context of a reemergence of ‘Social Darwinism’, which asserts that genetic heredity plays a greater role than social factors in the individual’s success or failure, and proposes that survival of the fittest is the inevitable response.

The Human Genome Project has codified our understanding of biology, while promising new products and services including the isolation of specific genes for criminality, sexuality, health and beauty. 10 aimed to provoke public debate around this systematic codification of social selection and rejection; and to encourage people to question their own judgement of physical appearance in relation to issues around equality and elitism social mobility and entrapment.

Study for 10
Based on research by MR Cunningham
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
vol. 50, no.5, 1986, pp. 928-929

Beauty contestant Emma Simpson being photographed at the Montage Gallery, Derby, England, 1998

10. Simpson, Emma, 75.26

9. Finiw, Zenon, 80.44

8. Brookes, Naomi 103.88

7. Clements, Stephanie 142.53

6. Heitman, Katie, 162.29

5. Joyce, Tara, 202.18

4. Ramsdale, Tracy, 349.20

3. Goldsworthy, James, 447.52

2. De Ville, Timothy, 600.15

1. Rigby, Rachel, 836.55

10, 1998
Inkjet prints on canvas, installed in the Montage Gallery, Derby, England
The West Collection, Pennsylvania, USA
Photography by David Pearson