Maxime Lefebvre

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Periaktoi : An A.I. interpretation of the Scaenae Frons (2018)

Credits: SCI-Arc, Marcelo Spina & Casey Rehm

“When there are to be changes in the play or when the gods appear with sudden thunders, they are to turn and change the kind of subject presented to the audience.”

Vitruvius, Book 5, Chapter 6.

Vitruvius’ description of the Periaktoi portrays a Greek hand-painted panel mechanically operated to present an audience with different scenes. A clear emblem of the architect’s obsession with creating spatial illusion through the use of imagery and graphic devices, the simple panel has since been considerably re-interpreted throughout different stylistic periods. From ancient Greek Theatres to today’s fully immersive VR domes, the projection of an audience into a technologically crafted trompe-l’oeil still fascinates even the most astute concert-goer. Recently, advancements in Neural Network technologies offer a new window into pursuing the project of the Periaktoi; here combining machine learning imagery, projection mapping and robotic motion for stage design.

Re-examining a notable principle of current image making culture – decorum – the re-invented Periaktoi achieve visual trickery through Machine Learning’s unbiased ability to blend form and style. Rather than reducing the image and its style to what they ought to represent – according to our social understanding of Style – it subtly alludes to stylistic elements by breaking them into a sum of idiosyncratic computational quirks. Together with the choreography of panels in motion, the new imagery for stage design proposes an interesting spin on the Scaenae Frons, the heavily articulated architectural background of a Roman Theatre.

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