Learning Outcome 16
Evidence your understanding of contemporary practice and the creative industries relevant to your subject
Projection mapping as a form of presentation can been seen in a very broad spectrum of creative and commercial activities, most obviously in the entertainment industries, advertising, commerce and the communication industries.
The video and VR gaming industries are predicated upon it. Education, training and public information systems (including museum and gallery curation) are increasingly incorporating projection mapping techniques.
Political messages are increasingly created by projection mapping.
Projection mapping is also being employed in a wide range of scientific and technical enterprises, from high tech design and engineering, aerospace development through to architecture, interior design and fashion.
Practically all televised sports, public events and spectacles, concerts and performances are now augmented by projection mapping, in one form or another.
New technology (from printing to photography and through every form of moving image and sound) has been avidly taken up by the pornography and sex industry; and one should expect projection mapping will be no different. As yet, I am not aware of any other criminal misuse of projection mapping; but it’s probably only a matter of time and warped imagination
Projection mapping offers enormous potential for overcoming the obstacles posed by specific disabilities; and this will bring revolutionary improvements to the lives of persons living with disabilities and their families.
I have to declare at this point that I am not going to explore projection mapping as a mechanism for video game design in any detail; as my interest in playing such games is virtually nil.
Equally, I am not going to dwell for very long on projection mapping of very large public events; which fall more into the category of massive spectacles; and indeed have more in common with the work of video effects specialists in the film industry.
My field is fine art; and I will focus more on the work of artists working with projection mapping on a gallery or small community scale.
My reasons for taking this direction is that the very costly equipment needed for large scale projection is beyond my reach; and I do not have access to the support teams that large commercial projection mapping companies can employ.
I will also explore the use of projection mapping in political art and as an aide for disability.
The Projection Mapping Industry
Prior to the Coronavirus crisis, US market analysts predicted that the global projection mapping industry is expected to grow from $1.56 billion in 2018 to $7.78 billion by 2026. Projection mapping market has been witnessing rapid growth from the past few years.
The global projection mapping market is expected to witness rapid growth over the forecast period, owing to rising use of projection mapping in media events. In addition to this, growing investment in product advertising is a major factor driving the market. However, it offers less-effective projection under sunlight, is anticipated to hinder the market growth over the forecast period. Nevertheless, rising use of virtual reality augmented may provide future growth opportunities in forthcoming
Key players operating in the global projection mapping market are
- Panasonic Corporation,
- ViewSonic Corporation
- Pixel Rain Digital
- Blue Pony
- Lumitrix s.r.o
- Green Hippo
- AV Stumpfl GmbH
- NEC Display Solutions
- Digital Projection
- Optoma USA
- Christie Digital Systems USA, Inc.
- Seiko Epson Corporation
Projection mapping companies can be dived very loosely into three overlapping groups;
Producers are integrated companies which create packages of projection mapping; they employ or commission the designs, employ the creative and technical staff, equip the events and stage the projection (whether physically or digitally for the cinema). The companies on the list highlighted in red are in this primary category.
Specialist Projection Mappers
Smaller highly specialised companies mainly led by artists and creatives providing high quality specialist projections.
I refer to companies such as HeavyM and Resolume as sub-specialists, because whilst they produce integrated projection mapping products, they cater primarily for medium to large scale music venues; and have technically limited products. I anticipate that they will suffer as technology leapfrogs over their achievements; they are ripe for takeover by bigger players.
There is no neat dividing line between the design and manufacture of projector hardware, and the software that runs it; but this group are established projection equipment manufacturers.
The key players are, predictably, now focusing on adopting the strategies such as product innovation, recent developments, mergers & acquisitions, joint venture, collaborations, and partnership, to enhance their market position in the global projection mapping market; for instance, in November 2017, BenQ announced the launch of 4K UHD HDR home cinema projector which has latest technology would enhance their market share because it is upgraded. In July 2019, Panasonic Corporation announced the launch of real time projection mapping projector, the industry’s lowest latency at just 0.0016 seconds and highly useful applications in fields including sports competition.
Most analysts predict a growth of about 25% in the sector; with a positive bias towards the software element, because the software can be innovated more quickly and cheaply than replacing equipment; and of course, software licences are now generally operated by repeat fee payments.
Whilst sales of projectors with a standard throw (i.e. equipment which is designed for bigger outdoor shows) is growing at 63%; the domestic market for short throw (essentially domestic devices) are also growing; but less profitably. The large venue demand is soaring.
Three-dimension projection is growing by about 40% and large-scale warping technology will increase demand further.
The market is predictably for theme parks and large arenas mainly North America and South Asia. The European market is a close second.
(Sources; FT reports Jan 2020)
Examples of Large Scale Projection Mapping
Spinefex produces amazing, colourful and culturally rich projections like this one of the Customs House in Sydney. The dark, dry and warm nights coupled with a sense of space and place in Australia make public projection mapping very accessible.
Projection Mapping for political messages
Projection Mapping and Fine Art
There is no unique or simple way to categorise fine artist working with projection mapping. Some work almost exclusively in the medium; others add a dimension of projection mapping to other works.
The field is changing very rapidly, even for the contemporary arts scene; and the works are necessarily very ephemeral. Curation is more akin to capturing a performance where the three dimensional stage has to be rendered as two dimensional moving images or sound recordings for posterity.
These works are truly international, and much of the best work is uttered in the context of languages other than English. As I have only a very limited ability to understand work published in languages other than English (I can mange some basic German, French, Spanish and Russian), I have confined myself largely to artists whose work is published in English.
Rebecca Smith is a performer and artist with the Urban Projections collective
She has worked for over 15 years as a performer and designer of projection art, both in the context of VJ-ing and installation art. She is self-taught, having undertaken an unrelated first degree (B.Sc. in Automotive Engineering)
Her website describes her thus;
Rebecca’s work seeks to discover new, and original, ways of presenting digital media for audience interaction, pushing the boundaries of creative possibility and pioneering new approaches to mixed media application. Above all, her work always remains accessible to its audience, regardless of the intricacy of its design.
Rebecca’s work has been viewed in prestigious venues throughout the UK and Europe, such as The Saatchi Gallery, Royal Festival Hall, Nottingham Contemporary and The Roundhouse. However, her work is equally at home on the streets and in unusual outdoor locations. With a heavy influence of street art culture, and love of abandoned sites and objects, she uses forgotten spaces as a canvas for much her work. From 8-storey tower block, to pedestrian underpass or forest location, Rebecca has realised an array of mobile projection systems which further her performance possibilities and allow for truly site specific application.
With over fifteen years experience as a professional audio-visual performer, Rebecca has lead high quality, cross-boundary projects, workshops, and seminars at both educational institutions and within the community. Sharing her enthusiasm and passion for arts and technology she actively encourages new and creative ways of exchanging new media practice.
Rachel’s work is certainly stunning, both in scale and quality. She has demonstrable abilities to work on the spectacular scale of urban projection mapping; but also through the Street Art project ( a tricycle with a 6000 ANSI lumen projector attached) engages with her community to provide immediate and thought provoking work on the street.
Many skilled projection mappers have evolved from the VJ ing club scene, an environment which is many ways was the cradle of projection mapping.
One such is a current Visiting Professor at UAL Fred Deakin, who with his colleague Franglen are the band Lemon Jelly.
Deakin learned his graphic design skills in Edinburgh and spent much time promoting the club scene before establishing Airside Studios; a highly successful design company which closed in 2012
Jerram’s work (allegedly) included exhortations to register and vote, at the time of the disastrous Brexit campaign in the UK.
Jerram raises the interesting question as to whether it is illegal to project onto a building without the permission of the owner.
There are, obviously, limitations in law as to what may be projected anywhere public; not least images of hate crime, promotion of terrorism and the like.
However, whether projecting an artistic image, which could be displayed lawfully in public on a poster, contravenes the law when it is projected without apparent public nuisance against the side of, say, Nelson’s Column is moot.
Tate 2019: The Tanks
In 2019, Tate Modern staged an exhibition of protected works, mainly derived from the countercultural art movements of the 1970’s.
Liz Kotz described these works n the following terms:
“‘Expanded Arts’, links are drawn from contemporary practitioners in music and art such as Jon Cage and Nam June Paik to precedents and protagonists as various as kinesthetic theatre, Bauhaus and vaudeville. Maciunas’s map shows that the difficulty of containing the extent of expanded cinema’s spheres of influence and interconnection reflects the unruly nature of this hybrid art activity”.
The are a couple of problems that I can see with this analysis; firstly, the use of cheaper, low cost film production for artists was a very short interregnum indeed; one which ended with the explosion onto the scene of domestic video cameras. Secondly, I don’t recognise the description of the art as being as eclectic as the repertoire of “kinesthetic theatre (sic), Bauhaus and vaudeville”. What I do see are works specifically derived from Shlemmer’s Triadic ballet (to my mind at least, a rather more derivative and direct reference).
What I find more convincing is Lucy Reynold’s view that
“Within this context, film projection now acts as a potent reminder that cinema is a live experience of the present moment, in which the beam of light becomes the crucial point of convergence between the mechanics of the projector and the process unfolding in the space and time experienced by the viewer, rather than an on-screen protagonist. This new conception is clear in the film-maker Malcolm Le Grice’s 1972 text Real TIME/SPACE,when he writes of the ‘projection event” as ‘the primary reality’, ‘current tangible point of access’ and ‘experiential base through which any retrospective record, reference or process is to be dealt with by the audience’. The article reflects his concerns about what he saw as the fixation upon on-screen drama encouraged by mainstream modes of spectatorship, describing it as the ‘passive subjectivity to a prestructured substitute and illusory reality which is the normal situation for the audience of the commercial film’.
A suitable analogy is the experience of viewing a live performance of a silent film, accompanied by live music. I saw such a performance of Hitchcock’s “The Lodger” accompanied by the virtuoso accompanist Stephen Horne: the dynamics of the live performance were electrifying.
Into the Light: The Projected Image in American Art 1964–1977 at the Whitney Museum in 2001
Burgess reviewed Into the Light for Frieze in March 2002.
‘Into the Light: The Projected Image in American Art 1964-77’ was an unabashedly intellectual exhibition which rose above the Whitney’s recent crowd-pleasers and made few concessions to the impatient or claustrophobic. It was a gutsy attempt by the museum’s curator of film and video, Chrissie Iles, to make newly visible a critical period in the development of a now commonplace form by bringing together a clutch of rarely seen projections from the medium’s early years. Viewers were rewarded with moments of rare, if raw, beauty, proving that this was more than just an exercise in unearthing roots.
Iles locates her area of interest as ‘between white cube and black box’ – the point at which the concerns of the cinema began to overlap with those of the gallery. It is surely no accident that this handy phrase recalls descriptions of late Minimalist sculpture, the particular concerns of which were no less important to the pioneers of projection. Both strived to activate the viewer’s environment by giving equal status to the image and the apparatus employed to produce it, the act of observing and the thing observed. The very word ‘projection’ also became double-edged, used increasingly to refer not only to the use of a particular technology but also to the investigation of self-hood – the ‘projection’ of identity.
While the art-historical coherence of ‘Into the Light’ may have been flawed – there were too many one-offs and omissions for a full and balanced account of the period to emerge – it did present an absorbing profile of the process of experimentation itself, coloured by the shifting sensibilities of the time and place. That the exhibition had an undertow of violence cannot be attributed entirely to the rough-cut nature of the work. From the most pared-down – Paul Sharits’ Shutter Interface (1975), in which a band of coloured rectangles alternate, overlap and flicker to a harsh, percussive soundtrack – to the most complex – Vito Acconci’s Other Voices for a Second Sight (1974), a three-room installation combining speech with lighting effects, architectural elements and photographic collage in an extended meditation on the experience of war and revolution – many of the works were marked by the shadows of Vietnam and by the turmoil of reassessment and change.
This critique grasps three core issues that I highlighted fro examination, in my Learning Outcomes.
Projection art exists between the white cube and the black box in other words, it is liminal and subject to flux between the gallery and the cinema; between the individual viewer and the audience. Mere spectacle is not enough; truth is in the engagement with the individual, no in dazzling the crowd.
Secondly, the task of curating work which is so ephemera and time and space related is nearly impossible; the capture of “rare if raw beauty” is often the product of the one-off or experimental work.
Thirdly, Iles has given equal weight to the apparatus and the images produced; my approach has been to push the technology into the background, to let the art speak for itself; but I can appreciate in the early days of projection, the mechanics of projection were so novel, the audience’s curiosity would be insatiable; and hence a distraction were it not so addressed.
X Screen: Film Installations and Actions in the 1960s and 1970s at MUMOK in Vienna in 2004
I learned quite a lot from Mark Webber in his Freize review of this exhibition about the perils of curating projections.
As I suspected, filmed works do not translate well to video;
“Shows such as ‘X-Screen’ can also be demanding to stage, and all too often curators take the easy route of a quick video transfer without considering how much of the work is lost in translation detracting from any sense of adventure, uncertainty and spontaneity. The few works that had been transferred to DVD for video projection felt weaker than those exhibited in their original formats. Nauman’s Rotating Glass Walls (1970), for example, seemed to suffer as harsh pixels and video lines replaced the even grain of film. The wonderfully sparse imagery – a centrally pivoted glass frame rotating on its horizontal axis – is so minimal that the lines and pixels that brutally infringed it, and the transparency of film that was so integral to the piece, were shattered by the luminosity of the video image. Also updated was Dennis Oppenheim’s Machine Gun Fire (1974). Its texture here was radically different from when it was presented in its original 8mm format and, although vital and menacing, it looked brand new yet somehow out of place in a historical show.”
i had the same experience personally, when I revisited the Berlin Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum fuer Film und Fernsehen (German Film and TV Museum) for the second time, and felt how tired and dull some of the exhibits had become, since my eye and ear were more attuned to hours and hours of watching and working with original film.
Anthony McCall is a British born artist , who lives and works in Manhattan. His work includes
“Into the Light: the Projected Image in American Art 1964-77,” Whitney Museum of American Art (2001-2);
“The Expanded Screen: Actions and Installations of the Sixties and Seventies,” Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna (2003-4);
“The Expanded Eye,” Kunsthaus Zurich (2006);
“Beyond Cinema: the Art of Projection,” Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2006-7);
“The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality and the Projected Image,” Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC (2008);
“On Line,” Museum of Modern Art (2010-11).
In 2019, he exhibited at The Hepworth Wakefield.
Solid Light Works was the first major UK exhibition in over a decade. It explored all facets of his work and included the UK premieres of three ‘solid light’ installations.
McCall describes his practice as existing in the space where cinema, sculpture and drawing overlap. He is best known for his large-scale, immersive sculptural light installations that incorporate the visitor and invite them to become active participants in the work.
The exhibition also highlighted the importance of drawing to McCall and the meticulous planning that goes into each installation.
Aided by digital projection, McCall’s new installations used only projected light and a thin mist, creating physically powerful works that take on the appearance of sculptural forms in space. Visitors were encouraged to engage with the planes and chambers created by the projections.
There are now a dizzying array of competitions; some genuine artistic events; others suspiciously commercial in complexion; many urban and sadly few aimed at the artist working (as I do) on an altogether smaller and more intimate scale.
There are numerous large city or urban projects, where companies or large studios compete to present spectacular public projection mapping events.
iMapp The annual Bucharest International Projection Mapping competition is one of the biggest, and attracts an audience of hundreds of thousands. Studios from around the world compete to produce spectacular events.
There were other events in Berlin (Berliner Dom projection) Kuwait, London, Los Angeles, Helsinki – and Norwich Castle.
The smallest UK festival I could identify was the Truefest at Hay on Wye.
Much of what is written about projection mapping is to be found seeded in other works or reviews, and as far as I can determine, there is, as yet, little in the way of specialist art history of criticism or academic analysis specifically of projection mapping.
What is obvious, is that projection mapped art is often site specific, projected in real time, and highly ephemeral therefore often lost to conventional archiving. The fact that it is so, is a great attraction to me, because it make such work difficult to collect and control.
I am not yet persuaded that three dimensional projection mapping of images has really penetrated the public consciousness as a form of fine art, rather than as a mere entertainment, novelty or spectacle.
We stand on the cusp of the explosion of a democratic digital arts revolution. Digital tools are now so cheap that any child can own one; and the skills needed to operate the software are becoming more and more intuitive by the day.
The Coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of people to stay at home, and digital creativity offered an escape from the boredom and confinement which paper book or TV would have afforded and earlier generation. I anticipate that the audience which emerges from this crisis may be a more digitally discriminating one.
I believe that projection mapping is at the cusp public consciousness at about the same point that photography was, in the 1930’s; or video was in the 1970’s; on the cusp of transition between the enthusiastic amateur with enough money and skill to pursue a demanding hobby; and a mass participatory activity.
The opportunities for me as an artist may lie as much in teaching and training others how to apply these techniques to their own chosen subjects as exhibiting my own work; but exhibition is, of course, the way forward to greater public awareness.