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Projection-Mapped Sculptures Blink and Breathe

Maybe you've read the ecstatic words of an archaeologist or art historian who learns some crucial piece of information that "brings the sculptures to life." Or maybe you've just seen Night at the Museum. Either way, living sculptures have been a fantasy for ages, and now expert projection mapping by French digital production company Studio BK has made it happen at The Fine-Arts Museum of Lyon.

The Mirage Festival of art and innovation in Lyon invited BK's head creative, Arnaud Pottier, to design frameworks specifically for three sculptures at the museum, the Odalisque by James Pradier (1841), First funeral by Antoine Etex, and Perseus Slaying the Gorgon by Laurent-Honore Maqueste.

The finished renderings look at first glance like patches of dappled light from an unknown source falling on the sculptures from the small projector in front of them. This light merely highlights their contours in strange ways. But after a few moments, a knowing eye rolls toward the viewer and begins to blink. The feeling is a bit darker than Night at the Museum, but it leads you to question how great sculpture works, proving the illusion of life as well as things that are more ineffable.

Sometimes the projections put their own spin on dimensions of the sculptures that only become apparent when the light hits them. For example, the Odalisque usually wears a contented expression typical of her genre, but BK's projections have made her expression almost baleful. Similarly, the light brings a fearful expression to the Gorgon's eyes in the Maqueste sculpture.

The artists have said of the work's predecessor, Golem x Apollo, that it "is based on the lack of life inherent of virtual imagery and classical sculptural art." But that's something of an oversimplification; what really makes these works so fascinating is all the layers, living and static, that continually react with each other.

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