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An art installation in Sheffield has caused disruption online through its subversive ‘deepfakes’.

A deep fake is a video generated by AI technology; it uses images of a person to create a moving video.   Those included in the art installation feature celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Mark Zucherberg, Donald Trump and Marcel Duchamp.

The installation, called Spectre, is at the Site Gallery, Sheffield.  Artists Bill Posters and Dr Daniel Howe collaborated with leading AI technology start-ups to create the range of deep-fakes intended to explore the dangers of the Digital Influence Industry.  The artists seek to challenge spectators: their press release included an invitation to “pray at the altar of Dataism with the Gods of Silicon Valley”.

Instagram’s statement on deep-fakes has been “we will treat this content in the same way that we treat all misinformation on Instagram.  If third-party checkers mark it as false, we will filter it from Instagram’s recommendation surfaces’.   This policy of not removing the videos has been put to the test by a one of Mark Zuckerberg created as part of Spectre, but Instagram has kept with its policy by not removing it.

This raises the question, however, of whether these videos can be classified as misinformation or ‘fake’ in the same way as the videos they are inspired by, as they are presented as works of art.  Responses on Instagram have been varied – some are positive, but one user commented that these videos were ‘highly dangerous without context’, whilst others clearly had not realised they were not real.

One thing this brings to light how the virtual world has now become part of our day-to-day reality; fake videos therefore manipulate our understanding of the world. History of Art applicants can reflect on how contemporary art seeks to blur the line between art and this new type of reality.  They might also think about the difficult nature of artworks that seek to highlight issues – like ‘fake news’ – by replicating it.

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