Thoughtworks Arts

Simulacra & Similitude: Synthetic Media Open Call

The deadline for this call has passed and submissions are no longer being accepted. We are working carefully through submissions and applicants will be contacted by email. We will announce results shortly after April 1st, 2020.

Thoughtworks, a global software consultancy with an arts residency based in New York City seeks an artist/technologist who works in their art practice with issues of synthetic media and deepfakes. The artist does not need to be an expert in machine learning or programming, but it is helpful if the artist has a basic understanding and some level of experience in or familiarity with visual, sonic and algorithmic technologies. A network of interested or supportive partners would also be a big plus.

Synthetic media, of which deepfakes is a manifestation, is a new type of simulacra. It builds on existing models creating even more convincing representations of things that are inherently reconstructed. Encompassing sound, images, text, cinematic, virtual experiences, and varieties of amalgamated combinations, it intensifies an epistemological crisis in the role of media for validating reality.

We are looking for innovative artistic approaches to these challenges using, but not limited to; moving images; synthetic photographs; motion capture; and speech synthesis with visual combinations. We will consider sound and text based models on a case-by-case basis, but this is not the call’s primary focus.

This Open Call is developed in partnership with MIT Open Doc Lab, an academic center for innovative documentary research, and WITNESS, a non-profit organization dealing with human rights and emerging technologies.


Thoughtworks will provide a work space, facilitation in midtown Manhattan, and access to guides and consultants, as well as appropriate resources as the project progresses. This sixteen week residency runs from May 4th to August 21st, 2020, and artists should be available to work from Thoughtworks in New York during this time. The residency comes with a stipend of $11,000, and assistance, if necessary in supplying a letter of intent to any external funding agencies that might facilitate with the residency.

Individuals who need to apply for visas should be particularly sensitive to recent issues surrounding work visas and consult with their own countries authorities for assistance in crafting their applications to visit New York. The residency does not provide housing or work visas, and is for the artist only. It does not include family members.

Applicants must submit a proposal using the form below before the application deadline of midnight March 5th, 2020. Your proposal should tell us who you are, what your project idea is, and how you plan to implement it. It should also include the skills you have, and the skills and equipment you require for the project. Where there are skills required which you do not have or cannot supply, please let us know.

Apply now

We will contact applicants with final selection information no later than April 1st, 2020. For any questions, please reach out to Paige King at this email address: [email protected]

MIT Open Doc Lab