Spectre, watching dystopia speaking


The deep-fake is one of the most groundbreaking digital cultural phenomena of the 2010s. It helped to demolish the last remnants of trust in mass media, developed over decades of journalism and editing in general. It has been quickly adopted by the rapidly rising so-called “digital influence industry”. Their business is basically to manipulate with whatever kind of information (mostly false or at best highly biased) a vast amount of targeted individuals, mainly through social media. These deep-fakes have been largely adopted in porn, but they’re still in the early phase in public awareness and use. Bill Posters and Daniel Howe have used their respective radical artistic and research backgrounds to develop the “Spectre“ installation, with deep-fakes involving Marcel Duchamp, Mark Zuckerberg, Kim Kardashian and Freddy Mercury among others. The vertical screens are set within black columns in a circle, facing each other. It reminds us of a primordial ritual setting, but also it surrounds the visitor, assaulting his or her attention from every direction. The notion of truth is deeply shaken by this ‘computational propaganda’, and as Howe explains “we used many of the same techniques […] to enable audiences to experience the inner workings of this secret digital influence industry”. As a proof of concept, Posters created a number of viral deep fakes for the Future Advocacy Consultancy including ones of Boris Johnson endorsing Jeremy Corbyn (and vice versa) just before the last UK elections. As Posters affirms, “History has demonstrated that we can’t have democracy without privacy”. This work attempts to create a shock in awareness. We will have to confront these hazardous digital traps for democracy, so better to see the dystopian possibilities in the face speaking to us.


Bill Posters and Daniel Howe – Veridical fakes