Blurring Fact & Fiction

Signals of Agency - Marcos Serafim

Work by UArizona assistant professor Marcos Serafim on display in 2022 at the Fosdick-Nelson Gallery, School of Art & Design, Alfred University.

Colette Chermak/Alfred University

By summer 2023, deepfake ads and social media posts aimed at the 2024 U.S. election were already rampant: Hilary Clinton lauding a Republican; Donald Trump hugging Anthony Fauci; 30 seconds of nightmarish what-if images generated wholly by AI.

“We live according to a certain realism, rather than a reality,” says artist Marcos Serafim, assistant professor in the College of Fine Arts. Today more than ever, technology shapes our beliefs about “truth.”

Serafim explores that dependency in some works by using AI to generate footage of interviews. They’re fake, but presented in contexts we accept as inherently true, blurring lines between what is and isn’t real.

His art also challenges our trust in data. In the audiovisual installation Membrana Semipermeable, Serafim explores racism and violence in the HIV/AIDS crisis along the US-Mexico border. His algorithms take public data on gender, ethnicity and more, and transpose it into false but photorealistic content, challenging the idea of an intrinsic link from data to truth.

Ultimately, Serafim sees art as one of many paths to knowledge and wants to raise awareness of how computers can manipulate and disinform. “There is danger in the technologies that I’m utilizing,” Serafim says, “and only two things stand in the way of us being controlled by it: awareness and literacy.”


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