how the creators of Anooki make the paintings of the Museum of Fine Arts sing

Deepfake technology at the service of artistic creation. For the 2022 Festival of Lights, the creators of Anooki had a slightly crazy idea: to make the characters in the paintings from the Museum of Fine Arts sing. They gave them life thanks to new technologies. This museum choir is a world first.

“After working for weeks to make the faces of these portraits move and sing, we see them moving now even when we walk through the museum’s rooms, and it’s quite disturbing”, explains David Passegand with a small smile. “I think the viewers of our project will also see the paintings sing when they enter the museum.”

Moetu Battle and David Passegand, the designers of Anooki, have not lost their minds and are not victims of hallucinations. But their creation for this Festival of Lights 2022 could well surprise many. The duo gave life, or rather gave voice, to the characters of certain paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon.

This year, for the Festival of Lights 2022, Moetu Battle and David Passegand have won the central square: Place des Terreaux. And they had a bright idea. The two artists have abandoned their usual characters to dust off the works of the art museum. Several portraits will be projected on the facade of the museum on the Place des Terreaux. These painted faces, normally motionless, will come alive and sing. This museum choir is a world first. Miracle or technological feat?

The creative duo will sing the chorus of generational hits to several characters from the canvases of the Palais Saint-Pierre. The show lasts about 8 minutes and will also be projected onto the facade of the town hall. “Certain works inspired certain song choices. We tried to make a playlist that works like a mini-concert”, noticed Moetu battle.

This light installation uses the technology “deepfake” or multimedia hypertrickage. This technique uses the resources of artificial intelligence to manipulate a video, image or sound. It is often condemned because it is a fraudulent approach aimed at creating hoaxes and false information.

Making inanimate images sing. The process looks simple on paper. “That’s the magic of it algorithms. It absorbed billions of images to understand how a face is made and it will allow us to recreate our animations, summarizes David Passegand, it does not matter if the character of Miss Svelting has closed her mouth. The algorithm will invent a mouth for the portrait”.

“It’s great. It amuses us, it’s incredible material for creation, but deepfake has a pretty bad press. We can make Trump or Obama say things they’ve never said. For us artists, it’s a new creative tool .”explains David Passegand. “A show like this couldn’t have happened two years ago, the technology wasn’t there yet,” he adds.

Mix amazing visual works and popular song classics. How did the creative duo choose the portraits? The two creators selected 80 faces. “We wandered around the museum a bit, as tourists and portraits challenged us. We had already established a playlist before we visited the museum, popular works, and we looked at the museum, who could interpret them… which soloist, which chorister? explains David Passegand.

So who will interpret the song “word, word” from the Dalida-Delon duo? “We came across Miss Svelting, a portrait of Thomas Lawrence. She is luminous, she has a volatile side, she inspired us. Then we had to find her Alain Delon.” says David Passegand, not without amusement.

We created unlikely duos (…) we freed ourselves from art history or painting movements. We made choices based more on attitude, physique, color or cut. We really had fun.

The creators of Anooki wanted to play on “historical shift”. An anachronistic and offbeat version of the Festival of Lights. “We took portraits that go from the Middle Ages to the 19th century for rights issues. It’s much more complicated to use modern artwork”, explains David Passegand.

Bringing these portraits to life also means bringing this collection to life and making people want to discover it.

This light installation will be visible on the facades of Place des Terreaux for four days. But it also has an educational vocation. The creators hope that spectators will then go to the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon to admire masterpieces.

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