Meet the artists reclaiming AI from big tech – with the help of cats, bees and drag queens

  • August 10, 2023
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AI’s potential is huge and terrifying. But a new generation of artists is starting to find new uses for the technology, as well showing its many limitations

When I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in early June, a fabulous drag cabaret was in full swing. Across seven small screens and a large wall projection, a rotating cast of performers in an array of bold looks danced and lip-synced their hearts out to banger after banger. Highlights included Freedom! 90 by George Michael, Five Years by David Bowie and Beyoncé’s Sweet Dreams.

Then the whole thing started again. And again. But this wasn’t just a video installation running on a loop: it was an elaborately engineered deepfake. Between each song, the performers underwent a kind of metamorphosis, melting down into amorphous masses of pixels and then re-forming with new faces and figures. For these AI-generated drag kings and queens, life really is a cabaret.

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