Review: Jake Elwes, The Zizi Show – A Deepfake Drag Cabaret (Edinburgh: The New Real, Edinburgh Futures Institute, 2020)


  • Owen G. Parry


The Zizi ShowA Deepfake Drag Cabaret (2020) is a virtual online interactive artwork combining Artificial Intelligence (AI) and drag performance. It was created by the British visual artist Jake Elwes with thirteen established, UK-based drag artists, kings, queens, and ‘everyone beyond the binary’, and with support from the Edinburgh Futures Institute.

            ‘Deepfake’, a portmanteau of deep learning or machine learning and ‘fake’, was popularized in 2018 when a modified video was circulated on social media of Barack Obama mouthing words contained in a separate audio track that appeared deceivingly like the ex-president of the United States’ own words. In our present age of Covid-19 conspiracy theories, fake news, and celebrity revenge porn, deepfakes are ranked as a ‘serious AI crime threat’ and ‘a threat to democracy’.