Please Feed The Lions

Feed the Lion a word

Cast in 1868, the lions in Trafalgar Square have been sitting as silent icons for 150 years. A fifth fluorescent orange lion joined them as part of this year’s London Design Festival.

As part of the 2018 London Design Festival, visitors to Trafalgar Square were invited to feed the lion – it only ate words – via a tablet screen on location or online by submitting a word via the London Design Festival website. Visitors input one word, and a two-line poem is generated by AI.

The Space worked alongside London Design Festival and Google Arts & Culture to support the overall production of the exhibit, focusing on audience access, engagement and reach for both on-site and online experiences.

Words became part of a cumulative choral poem generated by an algorithm trained on millions of words of British poetry from 150 years ago in the 19th century through to today.  During the day, with each word fed to the lion, the lion emited a choral roar as its mouth illuminated with the word before generating a two-line poem. At night, the Lion came alive with the cumulative choral poem, created by people across the UK and both the lion and Nelson’s Column were spectacularly illuminated with the poem.

Created by award-winning designer Es Devlin, Please Feed The Lions was the latest iteration of her exploration of emerging technologies, in particular machine learning. Having collaborated with Google Arts & Culture for over a year to explore the parameters of art and AI, Please Feed The Lions is Devlin’s first large scale public sculpture working with Machine Learning.

Please Feed the Lions by Es Devlin, part of London Design Festival
Please Feed the Lions by Es Devlin, part of London Design Festival

Es Devlin

“I was really inspired by the lions of Trafalgar Square. They’ve seen so much over the past 150 years – from political demonstrations and campaigns to Christmas celebrations, these monumental bronze figures have been sitting as silent guardians and the thought occurred to me – if they could open their mouths and speak today, what would they say?”

This new machine-learning (AI) interactive Landmark Project for the 2018 London Design Festival was located in London hotspot, Trafalgar Square.

Find out more about the project in this article which looks at the way in which AI allowed audiences to interact with a famous London landmark.

View this case study