Jake Elwes

Jake Elwes (b.1993, UK) is an artist, hacker, neuroqueer, educator and researcher living in London. They’re currently working to queer artificial intelligence with deepfake drag performers. Across projects that encompass moving-image installation, sound and performance, Jake’s work finds unusual ways of demystifying, mapping and subverting technology. Their work searches for poetry and narrative in the successes and failures of digital systems. Works include deepfake drag in The Zizi Project, glitching oppressive algorithms in Machine Learning Porn and reframing AI-generated marsh birds back into nature in CUSP. They have been making art exploring the aesthetics and ethics of machine learning systems since the very first generative AI models in 2016. Jake’s work also calls for us to challenge who builds these systems and for what purpose, and whether we, as artists and queers, can reclaim these technologies to build our own digital utopias.

Jake studied at The Slade School of Fine Art, UCL (2013-17), and their work has been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; Somerset House, London; ZKM, Karlsruhe; Today Art Museum, Beijing; Frankfurter Kunstverein; Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland; Honor Fraser Gallery, LA; Fundacion Telefonica Museum, Madrid; Ars Electronica, Austria; Zabludowicz Collection, London; Sculpture in the City, London; Science Gallery Dublin; RMIT Gallery, Melbourne; Onassis Foundation, Athens; E-WERK Freiburg, Germany; Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin; Nature Morte, Delhi; Centre for the Future of Intelligence, Cambridge and they have been featured on ZDF aspekte, ARD ttt (DE), BBC Radio 4 Front Row, and BBC1’s Kill Your TV – History of Video Art (UK).


Zizi & Me – Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)

2020, 4’55

Ongoing collaboration with Me the Drag Queen

Zizi & Me is a double act between drag queen Me The Drag Queen, and a deepfake (A.I.) clone of Me The Drag Queen. By training a neural network* on filmed footage this network learnt to construct a virtual body that can be controlled by feeding it new reference movements. The first act ‘Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)’ satirizes the idea that an AI is something that we might mistake for a human. Through drag performance, we aim to use cabaret and musical theatre to challenge narratives surrounding A.I. and society.

*Video-to-Video Synthesis (2018)

The Zizi Project (2019 – ongoing) is a collection of works by Jake Elwes exploring the intersection of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and drag performance. Drag challenges gender and explores otherness, while A.I. is often mystified as a concept and tool, and is complicit in reproducing social bias. Zizi combines these themes through a deepfake, synthesised drag identity created using machine learning. The project explores what AI can teach us about drag, and what drag can teach us about A.I.

Further information: https://www.jakeelwes.com/project-zizi-show.html

Making of the Zizi Show

2021, 6’19