RT Creative Lab has recreated the legend of the Russian avant-garde and modern photography Alexander Rodchenko in a deeply fake video master class series dedicated to the centenary of Vkhutemas and on the eve of his 130th birthday.
Rodchenko.LIVE is a series of deepfake videos in which the artist talks about the legacy of the visionary Russian art and design school Vkhutemas (The Higher Art and Technical Studios) – the Soviet equivalent of the German Bauhaus. Rodchenko taught construction and metalwork at Vkhutemas, pioneering design ideas in Russia.
The Vkhutemas were formed shortly after the Russian Revolution of 1917, after which the monarchy was abolished. It was intended as an institution that would prepare artists and craftsmen in order to meet the state’s goals for efficiency and production. But its legacy was short-lived – in 1930 it was permanently closed and its professors were purged.
Rodchenko.LIVE will consist of four videos, which will be released 2021-2022. In the first episode, “Experiment for Future”, Rodchenko gives an introductory lecture about his life and the creation of a new type of craftsman at Vkhutemas.
The Rodchenko.LIVE project is a meeting place for several types of art – AI technology, theater performances, design animation, cinematography and musical design. In fact, we have got a kind of digital educational one-man show. It seems to me that for the first time in history, deepfake and machine learning technologies were successfully applied to create a full-fledged video series with lectures from a real historical person. “ says Kirill Karnovich-Valua, Creative Director of RT Creative Lab.
The project was developed together with RT’s creative development department, director Alexander Scryabin and Phygitalism – business developers of visual solutions based on artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality.
Rodchenko was recreated in the video using deepfake algorithms – a technique for synthesizing an image with artificial intelligence. The project is unique in that only several historical photographs were used.
“Our task was to create several deepfake videos with Rodchenko with a total duration of about 40 minutes and with 4K resolution, with only a few images suitable for this purpose. For comparison, the Dalí Lives project used over 6,000 images, which obtained from selected videos with Salvador Dali. “ says Denis Leonov, project manager from Phygitalism.
The scripts for Rodchenko.LIVE are based on diaries, memoirs, personal letters, curricula and art by the avant-garde artist. Some material was donated to the project by Rodchenko’s grandson, Alexander Lavrentiev, a researcher and professor at the Stroganova Academy.
“De facto, we had no archive film fragments or significant number of photo documents, we recomposed the image of the artist – as we imagined him after studying archives, memoirs, reading interviews with relatives and descendants.” says Alexander Skryabin, head of the Rodchenko.LIVE project.
While casting actors for Rodchenko’s role, we strived to not only find the most anatomically similar person (a basic requirement for deepfake), we also looked for academic statement and some plasticity that would complement the artist’s representation and narrative, and as a result “Original costumes, shoes and other accessories made based on historical photographs, as well as such small details (cap, pipe, cup holder) significantly complemented his image.”
The video series is part of a larger project called Vkhutemas.academy which aims to revive the legacy of the visionary art school with the help of contemporary media formats. The website will soon be available in English.
RT Creative Lab is an Emmy-nominated digital in-house team within RT’s international news network.