Now open in Gallery 2: THE ZIZI SHOW by Jake Elwes

25.05.2024 - 02.09.2024
Opening Party: 6pm, 25.05.2024

The Zizi Show: A Deepfake Drag Cabaret
Jake Elwes
2023, Multi-channel video, 29 minute loop
Header image courtesy of the artist

Drag Queens, Drag Kings, Drag Things and Artificial Intelligence…
The Zizi Show
(2020) is a deepfake drag cabaret, a virtual stage hosting a ground-breaking show with a twist. It features acts that have been constructed using deepfake technology, learning how to do drag by watching a diverse group of human performers. The Zizi Show dissects one of the dominant myths about AI, the notion that 'an AI' is a thing we might mistake for a person.

The bodies in the show have been generated by neural networks trained on a community of drag artists who were filmed to create training datasets at a London cabaret venue closed during COVID-19. At times this breaks down when the A.I. tries to conceive impossible positions or combines multiple different queer identities; it can even reveal the skeleton tracking the deepfake is built on. The deepfakes were created collaboratively in celebration, resisting the exploitative and oppressive nature of deepfakes. The Zizi Show constructs and then deconstructs a virtual cabaret that pushes the limits of what can be imagined on a digital stage.

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 Artificial Intelligence.

Jake Elwes - Artist, Coder & Producer
- Director of Drag
Alexander Hill
- Web & Development
Toby Elwes
- Camera & Lighting
Charlie Baker
- Sound Mixing
The Apple Tree
- Filming Location (LGBTQ+ Cabaret Venue)

Cast - Drag Queens, Kings and Things:
Baby Lame | Bolly-Illusion | Bourgeoisie | Cara Melle | Charlie Wood | Chiyo | Dahc Dermur VIII | Dakota Schiffer | HERR | Lilly SnatchDragon | Lavinia Co-op | Luke Slyka | Mahatma Khandi | Mark Anthony | Me The Drag Queen | Miss Terri Boxx | Oedipussi Rex | Ruby Wednesday | Sister Sister | TeTe Bang | Wet Mess

Music & Performances:
This Is My Life, Shirley Bassey
- Movement by Me The Drag Queen
You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), Sylvester
- Movement by Chiyo
Raise Your Glass, Pink
- Movement by Lilly SnatchDragon
I Am What I Am, Douglas Hodge
- Movement by Me The Drag Queen
Freedom! '90, George Michael
- Movement by Mark Anthony
Sweet Dreams (Live), Beyoncé
- Movement by Cara Melle
Five Years, David Bowie
- Movement by Ruby Wednesday
Transition movement by Wet Mess

Part of The New Real by Edinburgh Futures Institute at Edinburgh International Festival.

Further information:
The first iteration of The Zizi Show was commissioned by The New Real at University of Edinburgh and The Alan Turing Institute as an online experience for Edinburgh International Festival (2021).

Comissioned by the V&A as a multi-channel video installation in 2023 for the opening of the new Photography Center.

Special thanks to Tom Francome for the documentary film, Charlie Baker for help with sound, Luke & Anneke Elwes, Dave Cross + John & James at the RVT

Email zizidragshow@gmail.com to request access to the interactive web app zizi.ai

Visit The Zizi Show - About Page

"The Zizi Project aims to bring together two things I love, artificial intelligence, and the world of drag performance. Drag has allowed me to dig into some of the social issues built into machine learning technology and explore the layers of construction and social bias in AI.

Working closely with friends from the London drag scene, in Zizi we have created a ‘deepfake’ virtual cabaret. Deepfake technology has enabled us to collaborate with machine learning to do drag, consensually re-animating each others forms. We trained our deepfakes on 21 extremely talented performers - perhaps proving that drag queens, drag kings and drag things will never be replaced by artificial intelligence.

The Zizi Project pushes the boundaries of both drag and AI to discover what AI can teach us about drag – and what drag can teach us about AI.” - Jake Elwes

Making of The Zizi Show - Jake Elwes discusses Deepfake Drag
‍2021, 6 minutes 20 seconds

Full exhibition image credits: Jesse Wild


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