News Releases

EY Metaverse Lab to celebrate Black leaders with AI-enabled metaverse art installation
  • Developed in collaboration with NEW INC, Ancestral Archives by artist Josie Williams brings historically significant Black leaders to present-day communities
  • Installation will be exhibited as part of the annual SXSW Art Program from March 10-17, 2023 in Austin, TX
  • EY to host panel discussion, "Arts Keeping Humans at the Center of the Metaverse" 10 a.m. CT, March 13, 2023

NEW YORK, Feb. 27, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) today announced it will showcase Ancestral Archives, an interactive multimedia installation by EY Metaverse Lab artist-in-residence Josie Williams at SXSW 2023 that explores infusing Black thought into virtual worlds and metaverse experiences using generative artificial intelligence (AI). Developed in collaboration with EY Metaverse Lab and NEW INC [part of the New Museum], Williams' work leverages the learning capabilities of deep neural networks to bring Black leaders who inspired her to present-day communities. The thoughtful, physical and digital experience showcases how AI and the metaverse can be harnessed and enriched with the connections, experience and knowledge of the past to create positive human impact and build a better working world.

This installation manifests leaders such as James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurst, Audre Lorde and Octavia Butler as "virtual poets." Built on a generative AI model that enables original poetic responses inspired by the linguistic styles of the authors, these virtual poets are designed to connect with the next generation of critical thinkers, activists and thought leaders. People can interact with the virtual poets in the metaverse with mask avatars informed by West African culture.

Domhnaill Hernon, Global Lead EY Metaverse Lab, says:

"Ancestral Archives will show the meaningful experiences and connections that can be fostered by fusing the metaverse, AI and the arts. I have learned so much working with Josie and I am thrilled that SXSW audiences will have the opportunity to hear and interact with the stories of these revolutionary Black leaders through this installation."

Josie Williams, creative technologist and EY Metaverse Lab artist-in-residence, says:

"I wanted to find out what would happen if the words of Black thought leaders were the only reference point for AI. Part of what I am trying to challenge is the default preconception of whose voices are placed into these kinds of systems."

The EY Metaverse Lab artist-in-residence program brings together artists and engineers to explore some of the world's most challenging issues. Williams, for example, is a creative technologist and afro-futurist who focuses on interactive projects that combat bias, social injustice and the use of biometrics for mass surveillance.

Edwina Fitzmaurice, EY Global Chief Customer Success Officer, says:

"Ancestral Archives is an important expression of art, technology and social equity that leans into the works of revolutionary Black historical figures to inspire reflection, conversation, learning and action so we can better understand and connect with each other. This kind of work is essential as the boundaries between our physical and virtual worlds increasingly become blurred."

Along with the installation, EY teams will be participating in various panel discussions at SXSW, including "Arts Keeping Humans at the Center of the Metaverse" on Monday, March 13 at 10 a.m. CT. As the metaverse continues to take shape, the session will focus on why it is imperative to have artists and technologists collaborate to build new virtual worlds that leverage the full scope of human imagination and cognitive diversity.

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For further information: Stephanie Kruczek, EY Global Media Relations,, +1 512 542 7761