Big Dada

Twenty five years ago, AT&T’s prescient 1993 ad campaign entitled ‘YOU WILL’ played a key part in launching the field of computational propaganda via the world’s first ‘pay per click’ (PPC) digital ad banner.

25 years on, ad platforms, web publishers, and other intermediaries have developed an infrastructure of data collection, surveillance and targeting capacities that scholars refer to as the Digital Influence Machine (DIM).

To expose & interrogate these opaque architectures, myself and fellow artist Daniel Howe set out to detourne (hijack) the DIM on June 10th, 2019 as we inserted 6 AI generated ‘deep fake’ artworks of celebrity ‘Influencers’ into social media networks. Our aim was to explore the tensions that exist concerning privacy, computational propagandas, technology and democracy. These formed part of an installation entitled ‘Spectre’ (

By applying detournement theory and using AI to hack the power of celebrity ‘Influencers’, our Dada-esque simulation reached dizzying heights as the artworks quickly became embroiled in a global conversation about the power of computational forms of ‘deep fake’ propaganda after they went viral on social media. This created a situation of global press coverage and official responses from Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.

Social media surfaces became a performance space for our AI generated critical artworks as they trolled the largest tech giant on earth – Facebook. Forcing them to question their global policies regarding computational forms of propaganda and the ‘fact checking’ of critical public art on their platforms.

By combining AI and machine learning technologies with critical art theory we feel we have exposed interesting territory for the development of theory concerning the Digital Influence Machine and network-based, new media works.

We would like to consolidate our work in this area during the web residency in order to:

1 – Compile and refine a new series of digital works centred on our ‘Big Dada’ intervention and associated documentation we have collated.

2 – 1 x short essay (1500 words) that consolidates our reflections of our initial ‘Big Dada’ intervention and the broader, neocolonial logics of surveillance capitalism and Dataism that the Spectre project interrogates.

3 – 1 x Academic paper for publication that develops and consolidates our artistic and critical theory in relation to ‘Big Dada’ and data as readymade and assemblage.