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Artists Envision Monumental Virus-Like Installation As A Hymn To Life

Viral/Vital Energy 2020 / Leonel Moura + Miguel Chevalier + Jacopo Baboni Schilingi

Leonel Moura, Miguel Chevalier, Jacopo Baboni Schilingi

The artists Leonel Moura, Miguel Chevalier, and the composer Jacopo Baboni Schilingi, imagine in the current context of a global pandemic, a monumental multimedia installation “Viral/Vital Energy 2020”, as a hymn to life.

In the current context of a global pandemic, virologists, geneticists, doctors, epidemiologists from all over the world are mobilized in the fight against SARS-CoV-2. Many scientists and laboratories are publishing their research on the virus. These microorganisms which are invisible to the naked eye and of which we have images by microscopy, nourish the imagination of artists, notably Leonel Moura, Miguel Chevalier and Jacopo Baboni Schilingi who together have imagined the work “Viral/Vital Energy 2020”, a continuation of their research between art and science.



Indeed, Leonel Moura imagined in 2019, “Lisboa Viral”, an exhibition in the Greater Lisbon area of 17 augmented reality virus sculptures. Miguel Chevalier started in 2019 a dialogue with Institut Pasteur as part of the Organoid program, which aims to provoke meetings between artists and scientists. Jacopo Baboni Schilingi works on breathing. He has been wearing since 2017, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, a special device based on technology developed by David Kuller (company MyAir) conceived to measure his breathing and that translates it into harmony and musical structures.

“Viral/Vital Energy 2020” blends their artistic worlds and research between art and science, in a fusion between image and sound.

 Viral/Vital Energy 2020 / Leonel Moura + Miguel Chevalier + Jacopo Baboni Schilingi

The model of the sculpture with its radiating shape was created by an algorithm which once given a 3D sphere generates spikes and holes on it. Some constraint parameters, such as the maximum size of the spikes and holes, are introduced previously, but the creative process is essentially generative and not controlled. The sculpture is a 15 meter high inflatable placed in the center of a 30-meter diameter water mirror, reflecting and magnifying the installation both at day and night. This blown-up sculpture, which at times deflates and re-inflates, is a symbol of the breath and breathing that allows life.

 Viral/Vital Energy 2020 / Leonel Moura + Miguel Chevalier + Jacopo Baboni Schilingi

At nightfall, the sculpture becomes the projection surface for a unique generative virtual reality work imagined by Miguel Chevalier, linked to Covid-19 and other viruses. For this new creation, the artist is gradually building up a database of 2D and 3D images, of diverse morphology of cells, viruses and bacteria. Some of these images were conveyed by Olivier Schwartz, Director of the Department Virus and Immunity of Institut PASTEUR, as part of the Organoid program. These images of microorganisms feed a computer program from which is born a “digital living matter” which develops at nightfall on the surface of the inflatable sculpture. Microorganisms appear, develop, replicate, and mutate, simulating a natural development model before disappearing, and reappearing in new forms and color combinations. This infinitesimal artificial life enlarges to an extraordinary scale plunges us into an unforeseen world with hypnotic energies.

 Viral/Vital Energy 2020 / Leonel Moura + Miguel Chevalier + Jacopo Baboni Schilingi

The sculpture is enriched by an original musical work imagined by the composer Jacopo Baboni Schilingi. The music is generated continually and in real-time by an algorithm that translates Jacopo Baboni Schilingi’s breathing into harmony and musical structures. A dedicated computer and algorithm constantly monitor the incoming data from the device: the length of each breath, his breathing rate, rib cage expansion and contraction, etc. The data is transmitted and interpreted live from the device to create a symbiosis between technology and the most fundamental, intimate process of a human’s life: breathing.

 Viral/Vital Energy 2020 / Leonel Moura + Miguel Chevalier + Jacopo Baboni Schilingi

Viral/Vital Energy 2020 responds to the fundamental need to re-create a symbiosis with the living world, especially the invisible world of microorganisms. Viruses, which have very bad reputations, “are also our friends” explains microbiologist Patrick Forterre, who specializes in particular in giant viruses. He recently demonstrated with his team that viruses have played a key role in our own evolutionary history. In the current context of the fear linked to the coronavirus, understanding these microorganisms is essential to better understand the future of humanity and the biosphere.

“Viral/Vital Energy 2020” is intended to be presented in urban space of cities around the world, during exceptional events such as Biennials or light and digital festivals.

Through striking visuals and dynamic sound, radiance and vividness of colour, this multimedia installation is envisioned as an impressive artwork to celebrate the victory of life.