KING SIZE: Marco Brambilla Traces Elvis Presley’s Legacy in Monumental Video Collage

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Marco Brambilla, a renowned film director and video artist, has joined forces with rock band U2 to create KING SIZE, the largest video collage ever made specifically for the group’s residency at the Sphere in Las Vegas. Utilizing cutting-edge AI and CGI technologies, the project is a visual tribute to the legendary “king of rock’n’roll,” Elvis Presley, featuring him in a never-before-seen light. From September 29 to December 16, concert-goers will be immersed in the singer’s world through an astonishing 15,000 sqm, 16K LED display with a 180-degree field of view.

Brambilla is widely recognized for his innovative use of digital imaging technologies and AI to craft immersive video installations that draw from everyday life and found imagery, satirizing contemporary society and prompting reflection on the production and dissemination of information. “A crucial aspect of my work revolves around our relationship with technology,” he reveals in an interview with designboom. For KING SIZE, the artist employs AI to trace the legacy of Presley and transform it into a hypnotic spectacle. However, beneath the mesmerizing entertainment lies a darker theme—the rise to stardom and tragic fate of the late icon serve as a symbolic representation of the failure of the American Dream, the relentless consumer-entertainment complex, and the perils of excess and capitalism. Brambilla delves further, connecting the phenomenon of Elvis Presley with a glimpse into the potential evolution of AI. Continue reading as the artist delves into the haunting symbolism of his mesmerizing KING SIZE production.

Elvis Presley’s journey into superstardom and subsequent downfall serves as an emblematic portrayal of the American Dream’s shortcomings. Brambilla’s collaboration with U2 began when his installation Heaven’s Gate at Outernet Arts in London caught the attention of the band, prompting them to approach him for a commission involving a sensory overload-driven video collage. Intrigued, Brambilla instantly jumped on board. In the process, he decided to explore the manufactured myths and icons of the silver screen, focusing specifically on Elvis Presley’s rise to fame and its troubling impact on fan culture. From a musician to a beloved actor with 33 films to his name, Presley was worshipped as a god, portrayed as a man who could do it all. However, in 1977, his tragic demise shattered the illusion, plunging an entire country into grief and shock. As Brambilla explains, Presley epitomized the American Dream, ultimately succumbing to its pitfalls. “The collage depicts Elvis’ evolution from prodigy to recording artist, from actor to movie star, and ultimately to myth. AI was utilized to create his final transformation into a resurrected idol larger than life,” Brambilla adds.

To realize KING SIZE, Brambilla employed an AI model called Stable Diffusion to process over 12,000 film samples of Elvis Presley’s performances and movies that he had collected, often creating the likeness of Elvis from scratch. From these samples, around 1,000 were selected to play in loops, resulting in a hypnotic matrix of films. “The AI allowed me to quickly find the material I desired. The process became a stream-of-consciousness exercise between myself and the AI model,” Brambilla explains to designboom. Advanced CGI technologies were also utilized to edit the samples and incorporate further details, with Brambilla collaborating with the largest post-production studio in Paris.

The final result positions Elvis Presley as more than just a mortal—he becomes a god-like figure befitting his legendary stature. Designed to fit the Sphere’s larger-than-life LED screen, which boasts the highest resolution on Earth with its 16,000×16,000-pixel resolution, Brambilla’s KING SIZE redefines the way we consume and perceive images.

Brambilla’s artwork takes viewers on a captivating journey that oscillates between reality and illusion. The piece begins in the Nevada desert, where the barren sand gives rise to Las Vegas and its captivating neon lights and music. It then chronicles Elvis’ career, from his breakthrough in music to his rise to fame on stage and the silver screen, culminating in his decline during his seven-year residency in Las Vegas. The artwork presents a multitude of physical manifestations of Elvis in life, on stage, and in film, creating a whirlwind of images that celebrate his enduring legacy. The scenography and emotional progression of KING SIZE are evident, leaving viewers in a state of heightened anticipation. “As Elvis becomes progressively larger-than-life, his transformation is mirrored by Las Vegas becoming an AI-enhanced futuristic metropolis,” Brambilla explains. “As we reach the top of the scroll, the density and speed of the samples I used increase, creating a cycle of production and consumption that is unsustainable.”

When asked if Artificial Intelligence is more of a tool or a collaborator, Brambilla perceives it as primarily a tool at this stage. However, he acknowledges that with AI still in its infancy, it may eventually evolve into more of a two-way dialogue. Technically, KING SIZE represents a hybrid approach, blending the collage technique with AI and computer graphics to create a seamless “Canvas”. The process of creating the artwork was also influenced by a collaboration with the AI tool, which often led to unexpected associations that found their way into the work. Beyond its scenography for U2’s Las Vegas residency, the artwork will also be exhibited at a forthcoming gallery show in Berlin.

By using 1,000 individual clip samples, Marco Brambilla has successfully crafted a mesmerizing video collage that offers a fresh perspective on the legacy of Elvis Presley. KING SIZE serves as a profound exploration of the American Dream’s failures, while also providing a glimpse into the potential future of AI. Through a marriage of artistry and technology, Brambilla’s visually stunning creation captivates and prompts contemplation, offering viewers a unique and thought-provoking experience.

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