Since 1867, Trafalgar Square has been home to four statues of lions. Yet from 17 September 2018 they will be joined by a fifth big cat – albeit an altogether more virtual affair than its statuesque pride mates. London Design Festival director Ben Evans has announced that British designer Es Devlin will present “Please Feed the lions”, a project created using video mapping technology, a kind of 3D architectural projection applied to surfaces of large and small dimensions such as monuments, buildings, products and objects. The project also incorporates Machine Learning, exploring the boundaries of design and Artificial Intelligence thanks to a long-lasting collaboration with Google’s Arts & Culture Lab.
“Please Feed the lions” was devised with the support of The Space, an agency specialising in the development and creation of digital art.
The work – which instantly catches the eye on account of its fluorescent red colour – is interactive and “capable of learning”. During the day, visitors will “feed” the lion with words and poetry which will then be projected on Nelson’s Column during the night.
“The British design guru Sir John Sorrell nudged me as we walked through Trafalgar Square this time last year,” explains Devlin. “He said: ‘Landseer never wanted those lions to look so passive: he proposed a much more animated stance, but Queen Victoria found it too shocking.’ The thought lodged in my mind. What if we could invest the lion with a diversely crowd-sourced collective poetic voice?”
“We’re delighted to be able to support Es’s exploration of machine learning in her work and be part of her public artwork for London Design Festival,” adds Google Arts & Culture Program Manager Freya Murray. “Machine learning is helping to tackle some of the biggest challenges we face today, from healthcare to environmental conservation. This technology can also provide artists with a new set of tools.”