New AI-assisted video from TRLLM probes the unease in that viral Peloton Ad
In the now infamous ad for Peloton's workout machine, a women is in a state of awe, rapture, exhaustion and exhilaration. The ad quickly drew a nasty backlash the from massively-online twitter crowd, who projected a certain "hostage video" quality onto the seemingly banal advert. Perhaps the spot acted as a lightning rod for pent up frustrations with inspirational–lifestyle–self-help–athletic branding. The constant push for improvement, or "gains" produced a consumer who is empty, lonely, and longing for more. This marketing hinges on creating a void that can only be filled with expensive equipment, gym memberships and trendy diets. In this new paradigm, having the time and energy to workout becomes yet another projection of class. Mashing this new gym-rat identity with historical notions of equating wealth with free time gives us a potent current fashion segment: Athleisure
There is something uncanny, familiar, and pained in the actors expression. What if the new screen on her workout bike was actually a gateway to a new world? With the rapid development of GAN (a Generative Adversarial Network) technology, image production is becoming more and more disconnected from the tactile and physical. Similarly, the offer of Peloton, a live streaming spin class, is a version of another technology mediated development: Parasocial relationships. Until the recent explosion of Vloggers, Podcasters, and Influencers, these one-sided fan cultures were reserved for celebrities, sports-teams or TV stars. But now, every company is trying to cultivate it's own rabid fan-club. Creating an in-group complete with it's own terminology, rituals, and consumer goods is paramount to attracting and retaining costumers. Peloton has been quite successful at this, it's users profess an almost cult-like affinity for the experience and a genuine love for the digital community they have found along the way.
It was from this context of an athleisurely parasocial hostage that we developed the idea for a remix video using the ArtBreeder GAN. We were influenced by Martin Arnold's Passage à l'acte: A 1993 avante-garde short where one short scene from To Kill A Mocking Bird is reedited to extract underlying emotions and micro-expressions on the actors faces and in their gestures. This effort of probing and re-contextualizing widely viewed material to bring forth new meanings is very prescient in today's hyper-active world of hot takes and distractions. We wanted to take something current and fleeting and hopefully extract something lasting and moving inside of it. WE ARE ALL the Peloton Ad women staring into the abyss of deep-learning algorithms, striving to be whole, ever-ready, yearning for our golden moment of virality, the chance to traverse the Uncanny Valley and find clarity atop the technostructure.
Watch "THE GIFT THAT GANS BACK" Below: