Alter Ego

Alter Ego is a generative video installation that exposes the increasing role technology and artificial intelligence play in the course of humanity. 

Cadie Desbiens-Desmeules turns the technology back on itself, hacking Instagram’s API to present an unfiltered glimpse of human activity before it is skewered by algorithms. Images posted under popular hashtags are rearranged to take the form of AI-generated ‘influencers’ faces. These faces act as a visual representation of Instagram’s otherwise invisible hand – the artificial intelligence algorithm that effectively shapes the behaviour and content created by its users. The artwork invites the viewer to reflect on the extent to which humans are both intertwined with technology and manipulated by it.

Using the popular hashtags #love, #girl and #me, the artist is able to display the images that are being posted globally, in real time. The viewer is therefore able to see the raw output stream of human activity before it is subject to the selection process of the Instagram algorithms. Taken individually, these images give an insight into the zeitgeist of our times, showing how people are influenced by the platform, and how our behaviour is bent under its influence.

As images are being posted, they are rearranged to take the form of AI-generated “influencers”. The idea of the artist is to create AI ‘influencers’ composed of individual images of people who are often engaged in this influencer style behaviour. As the AI is being trained using machine learning and faces that are available online, the most numerous faces are those of celebrities. The resulting composite faces reflect mainstream conventions of beauty and how the platform encourages a certain type of content. The fact that an AI creates faces resembling those used by advertisers to influence our behaviour and consumption habits, and that these images are composed of people often engaged in the same influencer behaviour, shows how blurry the lines between commercial content and authentically produced content have become.

The installation presents an opportunity for the viewer to catch a glimpse behind the experiment that we are all being a part of.

A performance version of the project is also available [Influenced].

Text by Jonny Tiernan.

Materials1-5 Flatscreens, 2 computers
DimensionsFlatscreens must be at least 50 inches.
Running TimeIndeterminate. Generative composition.
Setup1 to 5 Flatscreen monitors are installed vertically in an exhibit space. The video system uses Instagram API to capture in real-time hundreds of photos of the most popular hashtags. A High-Speed internet connection for constant streaming is required. Other format such as video wall display or video projection can be discussed with the artist. Pre-rendered videos can be provided.
CreditsCadie Desbiens-Desmeules
Programming Mitchell Bundy

Arsenal Contemporary Art – BIAN (CA). Cadie Desbiens-Desmeules. Alter Ego. International Digital Art Biennial. 19 Nov 2021-16 Jan 2022. Photos: Sébastien Roy.

NFT | Digital Prints

© 2020 Alter Ego. Cadie Desbiens-Desmeules. All rights reserved.