The four lions of Trafalgar Square have a new friend; a big crimson friend who talks back.
A companion for the existing four lions is taking pride of place in until 23 September, as part of London Design Festival.
Conceived by Es Devlin, the big red cat has a trick up its mane. Visitors are encouraged to talk to the lion, 'feeding' it fragments of speech. The lion melds the words with those of others to create poetry, displayed in its mouth. At night, the finished poem is projection mapped onto the lion and Nelson's Column (and any lingering Yodas).
The idea was inspired by the famous Landseer lions, which are so relaxed and even-tempered that children feel the urge to climb on their backs. Landseer wanted the beasts to look more rampant, but was overruled.
"The thought lodged in my mind," says Devlin, "what if we could invest the lion with a diversely crowd-sourced collective poetic voice." That collective poetic voice is dished out by a Google Artificial intelligence and then projection mapped all over the square. Whatever happened to the rule that simple is best?
Londoners love to subvert stuff like this. What are the odds the organisers will have to make an apology after someone fools the AI into projecting offensive poetry?
Please Feed the Lions is in Trafalgar Square as part of London Design Festival, 18-23 September 2018. Participation is free but no-doubt very queuesome. We'll give you a free biscuit if you can get the lion to say 'sweaty nut-scruttocks'.