Back 31.05.2020

PRESS: Synthesised Moving Image Works Acquired by National Film & TV Archive

I’m really pleased to share the following announcement! 😀



The BFI National Archive has acquired a series of ‘deepfake’ videos of a number of high profile public figures including Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Kim Kardashian and Mark Zuckerberg. The videos were produced as part of two timely audio-visual projects; ‘Partly Political Broadcast’ (2019), by artist Bill Posters and ‘Spectre’ (2019), by Bill Posters and Dr. Daniel Howe, exploring the role played by data, technology and the moving image in the spreading of disinformation.

Winners of the 2019 Alternate Realities Commission, Bill Posters and Dr. Daniel Howe’s interactive art installation ‘Spectre’ was launched at Sheffield Doc/Fest in 2019, with support from Arts Council England, British Council, Site Gallery and MUTEK. A cautionary tale of technology and data privacy powered by algorithms and visitor data, ‘Spectre’ offers a critique of the digital influence industry. The work includes ‘deepfake’ videos ‘made by’ a number of hacked celebrity ‘influencers’: Morgan Freeman, Kim Kardashian, Marina Abramovich, Freddie Mercury, Donald Trump and Mark Zuckerberg.

On the significance of Bill Posters and Dr. Daniel Howe’s work, BFI National Archive Curator of Contemporary Fiction, Will Massa said:

“As online film and video play an increasingly dominant role in all our lives, from general entertainment to general elections, there is heightened anxiety about the provenance of what we are watching. When I experienced ‘Spectre’ at Doc/Fest in Sheffield I found its use of ‘deepfake’ video technology chillingly effective. As well as documenting and preserving the art and history of filmmaking, the BFI National Archive offers us an important insight into the impact of the moving image on society at large, from the earliest surviving Victorian films through to YouTube viral hits. We find ourselves at something of a watershed moment in terms of our relationship to news, information and trusted sources, and the acquisition of these works bring us right up to the cutting edge.”

Several of ‘Spectre’s’ ‘deepfakes’ went viral on social media leading to global press coverage and opening up a wider conversation about technology, unchecked influence and the subversion of democracy. The sophisticated manipulation of videos like these, which appear to show Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying something he did not, led to a European Union proposal to ban facial recognition use by government. Bill Posters and Dr. Daniel Howe’s ‘Spectre’ series of videos have been acquired into the BFI National Archive alongside Bill Posters’ most recent ‘deepfake’ project, ‘Partly Political Broadcast’, created in collaboration with think tank Future Advocacy in the run-up to the 2019 UK General Election. ‘Deepfakes’ of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn endorsing each other for the premiership were released online to highlight the techniques being used to fuel mistrust and the need for tighter regulation of potentially harmful technologies.

These acquisitions are particularly timely given Facebook’s recent decision to ban subversive ‘deepfake’ technology in the run-up to this year’s US elections. The company however did decide to leave the ‘Spectre’ videos up on Instagram. Most recently it was announced that ‘Spectre’ will exhibit in the US as part of SXSW’s 2020 Art Program (13-22 March).

In response to the BFI National Archive acquisition artist Bill Posters said:

“Our ‘deepfake’ videos for ‘Spectre’ became the world’s first to be used in a non-fiction, documentary storytelling format. When we released a series of these videos online we became unexpectedly embroiled in a deeper, global conversation concerning powerful new technologies and their impact on moving image practices. We are delighted that these works will be preserved for the future generations and hope young and old audiences will engage with the work, deepening their ability to understand the latest developments in these practices.”

Dr.Daniel Howe adds:

“It is a great honour for our work to be selected for inclusion in the BFI National Archive which spans the entire history of the moving image. The fact that curators of such a prestigious resource have the awareness and foresight to include AI-generated media in these very early days is really quite inspiring.”

‘Spectre’ has been shortlisted for the NEM and Aesthetica Art Prizes and was recipient of a 2020 SXSW artist award.


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The BFI is the UK’s lead organisation for film, television and the moving image. It is a cultural charity that:

Founded in 1933, the BFI is a registered charity governed by Royal Charter. The BFI Board of Governors is chaired by Josh Berger CBE.


The BFI National Archive was founded in 1935 and has grown to become the one of the largest and most important collections of film and television in the world with over 180,000 films and 750,000 television programmes. For over 80 years the BFI has been an international leader in film preservation and guardian of Britain’s unparalleled film and TV heritage. The BFI is an innovator in presenting films to audiences in new and dynamic ways, from cinemas to film festivals, outdoor events to online video-on-demand services. At the heart of all its activities is the BFI’s central aim to ensure that everyone in the UK has access to the widest possible range of film and their own film heritage.

That heritage includes all-time great British directors Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger; and the rich vein of documentary filmmaking, in which Britain led the world, including the lyrical work of Humphrey Jennings. The archive also boasts a significant collection of filmmakers’ papers as well as extensive stills, posters and production and costume designs along with original scripts, press books and related ephemera.

Expert teams undertake the time-consuming and complex task of restoring films at the BFI John Paul Getty Jr Conservation Centre in Hertfordshire. The BFI’s most precious film materials are kept in optimum conditions in the world-leading Master Film Store in Warwickshire.