In Event of Moon Disaster (Dominic Smith / courtesy of MIT and Halsey Burgund)

Deepfake: Unstable Evidence on Screen

December 18–May 15, 2022
Museum of the Moving Image – Changing Exhibitions Gallery

Moving image media is more susceptible than ever to manipulations that make it hard to separate fact from fiction and truth from illusion. Machine-learning technology has enabled the creation of “deepfakes”: videos that intentionally distort or fabricate actual events. Deepfakes have entered the moving image ecosystem at a particularly vulnerable moment: social media creates the opportunity for any video to be shared widely and immediately, and believed or contested based on entrenched points of view. This exhibition presents a variety of media that demonstrate the instability of on-screen truths, and places them in a historical continuum from the late 19th through the early 21st centuries. While the exhibition identifies the dangers presented by deepfakes and other forms of synthetic media, it also acknowledges the possibilities inherent in their prosocial applications.

The centerpiece of Deepfake is In Event of Moon Disaster, a startlingly convincing video co-directed by Francesca Panetta and Halsey Burgund that uses deepfake technology to suppose an alternate history of the Apollo 11 mission, presented on a television set in a period-appointed living room. In Event of Moon Disaster is an MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality production. The project won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Interactive Media: Documentary earlier this year.

Deepfake: Unstable Evidence on Screen was organized by Barbara Miller, MoMI’s Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, and Joshua Glick, Assistant Professor of English, Film & Media Studies at Hendrix College and a Fellow at the Open Documentary Lab at MIT.

The exhibition will be accompanied by the series Questionable Evidence: Deepfakes and Suspect Footage in Film, which will feature screenings and other public programs that probe synthetic media from a variety of perspectives, looking at the myriad ways evidentiary footage has been manipulated or mimicked in film.

Access to the exhibition is included with Museum admission. Order advance timed-entry tickets here.