Ever wonder what it would be like to meet Salvador Dalí? You may get your wish.
On Wednesday, which was the 30th anniversary of Dalí's death, the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, announced "Dalí Lives," an experience that will go live in April. Using machine learning and old video footage, agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners will bring the quirky, charismatic Surrealist master back to life—on screens, anyway—all over the museum.
"Dalí was prophetic in many ways and understood his historical importance," says Dr. Hank Hine, executive director at The Dalí. "He wrote, 'If someday I may die, though it is unlikely, I hope the people in the cafés will say, "Dalí has died, but not entirely."' This technology lets visitors experience his bigger-than-life personality in addition to our unparalleled collection of his works."
That's cool. But why take a paraphrase when you can hear Dalí talk death with his own two lips? You're welcome.
When we think of modern technology bringing icons back from the dead, one reference comes to mind: ConAgra's splashy 2007 ad with Orville Redenbacher—or as some dubbed him, Orville Deadenbacher. Released during the Golden Globes, created by Crispin Porter + Bogusky and directed by David Fincher—ConAgra's costliest ad ever at the time, per marketing vp Stan Jacot—it was branded by critics with a single adjective: "zombie."
That's not an exaggeration. Redenbacher's lifeless eyes contrasted with a bright voice. He bandied an MP3 player around as evidence of his triumph over mortality—we don't even know why he had one, except to mock us. Anyway, we were traumatized.
Of course, tech improved. In 2013, Dove Chocolate/Galaxy, AMV BBDO and Framestore resurrected Audrey Hepburn, and the result was perhaps eerie, like seeing an old classic restored in Technicolor, but not nightmare-inducing.
We suspect this is for two reasons: Nobody tried to graft a goddamn iPod into her hands, and the effort wasn't 100 percent CGI (Orville was). Instead, old footage was combined with an actual human actress to lend the effect of rosy-cheeked (and not undead) resurrection.
This same method is the basis for Dalí's return, with a few extra touches: The Dalí Museum gave GS&P hundreds of interviews, quotes and pieces of archival video footage to train an A.I. algorithm to "learn" Dalí's face. All this was carefully combined with the face and expressions of an actor of similar physical frame.
The Dalí Museum claims visitors will be able to engage with this conveniently surreal screen-based personality; writings from Dalí himself will nourish his every response, coupled with "dynamic present-day messages." (We're eager to learn whether he weighs in on global warming, protectionist government and Banksy. Not necessarily in that order.)
It's a tribute to the times that whatever was missing from that last Audrey Hepburn revival is reclaimed here. Dalí feels startlingly present and real, not like a fragile relic from an old film. Sparse presentation and well-chosen music also enable us to focus on his whimsical reflections and expressive features.
Vivid emotion passes from him to us, a contagion unique to the living, and we are surprised both to admit it and to feel it.
"Dalí Lives" represents the museum's effort to keep fresh in a brave new world where engagement and experience can be tackled in ways previously unimagined—even by the lord of melting clocks (and the Chupa-Chups logo!) himself.
The screens will appear throughout the space, come April. And while we don't yet know how or in what contexts people will be able to "engage" the artist, we're already impressed with even this small sample.
This marks the third collaboration between The Dalí and GS&P. It follows "Gala Contemplating You," a 2014 exhibition where attendee selfies were added to a projected replica of the 1976 painting Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea Which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln (Homage to Rothko); and "Dreams of Dalí," a VR experience that, in 2016, immersed people into Dalí's "Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet's 'Angelus.'"
Learn more about the project at the "Dali Lives" subsite.
Ad Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners
Title of Creative Work: Dali Lives
Exhibit: 4/15/19 St. Petersburg, FL
Executive Director, The Dalí Museum: Dr. Hank Hine
Chief Operating Officer, The Dalí Museum: Kathy Greif
Director of Marketing, The Dalí Museum: Beth Bell
Education Curator, The Dalí Museum: Peter Tush
Creative Directors: Roger Baran, Nathan Shipley
Art Director: Ricardo Matos
Copywriter: Otto Pajunk
Creative Technologist: Troy Lumpkin / GS&P LABS
Executive Producer: Margaret Brett-Kearns
Producer: Severin Sauliere
Director: Nathan Shipley, Roger Baran
Technical Director: Nathan Shipley
Sound Design: Dave Baker
Mixing: Dave Baker
Music: "Insight XXX" by Julien Marchal
Editor: Nathan Shipley
Line Producer: Amanda Steigerwald
DP: Michael Miller
2nd Camera Operator: Emilio Diaz
Slate: Austin Kim
Gaffer: Jeff Carroll
Sound: Isaak Le
VTR: Chris Madera
Stylist: Tiffany Amundson
Make-Up/Hair: Nicole Sofios
VO Recording Studio: One Union Recording
Additional VO Recording Services: Studio West of San Diego
Assistant Account Manager: Casey Cooney
Director of Communications: Meredith Vellines