Alter Ego

Alter Ego is a 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 an algorithm. Images posted in real time under popular hashtags are rearranged to take the form of AI-generated ‘influencers’ faces. The generative artwork invites the viewer to reflect on the extent to which humans are both intertwined with technology and manipulated by it.

Using popular hashtags such as #love or #beautiful, 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 algorithm. 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 generated ‘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 created by the AI reflect mainstream conventions of beauty in our societies. 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 a part of.

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

Text by Jonny Tiernan.

Materials1-3 Flatscreens, 2 computers
DimensionsFlatscreens must be at least 55 inches.
Running TimeIndeterminate. Generative composition.
Setup1 to 3 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.
CreditsCadie Desbiens-Desmeules
Programming Mitchell Bundy

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