Author Archives: karelspeaksout

About karelspeaksout

Light Artist, Director, Stereographer

Seen and Not Seen

Seen and Not Seen

Seen and Not Seen was a projection mapping installation created at Studio 308, Greenwich in September 2013.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 05.56.09
Click any image to enlarge.

Here is a 3 minute video record: https://vimeo.com/81094390

During the event visitors were led into the studio in total darkness guided by LEDs to stand in front of a ‘welcome’ sign. The show then consisted of projections on to a screen and on to masks suspended by fishing-line which gave the illusion of faces floating in space.

I’ve always had a deep affection for the Talking Heads song. It may be about someone who seems a bit unhinged, but the themes are pretty deep. On the surface it’s about appearances – about how we superficially look. But underneath lie our anxieties about how we present ourselves to others, and are perceived by them.

The challenge with creating a video of a performance staged in darkness is that you’re forced to show the smoke and mirrors. During the performance the audience stands in the dark and you hide as much as possible from them. The video has to do the opposite. If you were to just record what the audience saw it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to the viewer. Without some context it would appear to be just faces appearing and disappearing against a black background: the viewer, unlike the audience, is not there to experience the magic of it happening around them.

This is common with other videos documenting Projection Mapping installations. They will show the site – perhaps a building – during the day, and then show the performance at night. Without this there is nothing by which to judge scale and tell what’s going on – the show would lack impact. In short, you have to show how it’s done, and do so at the outset.

This project took a lot of work, but I’d love to do it again, and I have several ideas for other subjects and approaches.

Seen and Not SeenScreen shot 2013-12-30 at 15.52.50Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 05.52.45
Seen and Not Seen
– Click any image to enlarge.

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Out Of Darkness (Virtual Light 1)

Out Of Darkness 600x317

A Projection Mapping installation staged at the Phoenix gallery in Brighton as part of Alex May’s Painting With Light event in December 2014.

There is a very convincing illusion here of a light moving around inside the room and illuminating the piece. However there is only the one projector, and the effect of this absence is disjointing. Some see it as creepy, some as beautiful. (But few are left unimpressed.)

Out of darkness flux copy  Click here to play the video: Out of Darkness

note:
The live piece is creamy white and free from any of the flicker or artifacts visible in the video. The music was added for this edit. The piece itself is silent.

This installation has been shown at Painting With Light, London Decompressed (Burning Man), Gallery 286, Art in Flux, EXP Hackney.

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Note to arts curators:
Much of Out Of Darkness can be prepped off-site. But because the specific geometry of any venue it is important here that the final assembly and filming needs to be done on site. Providing that rigging the projector is straightforward, this usually takes half a day.
The venue does not have to be blacked out, but the darker it is the better.
I would welcome the opportunity to create a much larger version of this!

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Another Gray Area (1981)

Karel Bata - Another Gray Area 4

My experiments with image presentation led me in 1981 to create Another Grey Area. This used a rig built from Meccano housing a spinning mirror linked to a motor, the whole married to a Sony Portapak video camera mounted on top, looking down. As the mirror rotated the camera’s field-of-view covered 360 degrees. I filmed a dancer in Sadler’s Wells Theatre’s rehearsal space dancing around the rig. The video was then transferred to film (I filmed off a TV!) and this was put in a projector, which replaced the camera on the mirror-rig. This then projected an image of the dancer that moved around the presentation room, creating the illusion of a portal into the original rehearsal room. With the rig in the right place, the corners of the rooms would line up. It was an effective illusion.

As far as I know this was the first Projection Mapping installation in Europe. There had been experiments before in the US by Disney, and (unknown to me then) Michael Naimark used a film camera mounted on a turntable in 1980.

Another Grey Area was shown at several event spaces including Sadler’s Wells Theatre, and the London Film-Makers Co-Op in 1981/2.

The projected material (which moved around the room) may be viewed here:
Vimeo link

For 30 years the rig sat in a cupboard under my gas meter(!) until I attended a talk by artist Alex May on the history of Projection Mapping and realised that I had unwittingly been one of the pioneers. Whoah! Below is the rig as it came out of storage. The motor is detached because it got used for something else since. The mirror broke long ago, but its rectangular frame was still there. In the pictures below it has been replaced with a circular one.

 Initial view
  Click any image to enlarge

 Karel Bata - Another Gray Area: Schematic
Karel Bata - Another Gray Area - Wide
Karel Bata - Another Gray Area: Schematic
Karel Bata - Another Gray Area - Wide
Karel Bata - Another Gray Area: Schematic
Sony AV3400 reel-to-reel Black & White 405 lines Portapak hired from
Fantasy Factory.

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SX70 Polaroid experiments

In my 20s I devoured the monochrome photography of Walker Evans, Robert Capa, the NFA, etc. I must bought bought the whole PhotoPoche library. I was also a frequent visitor to Soho’s Photographers’ Gallery, and it was there I was blown away by Lucas Samaras’ bold use of colour, and his physical manipulation of Polaroid prints – so radical back then!

I saved up, bought a SX70 Camera, and set about moulding the dye layers as images formed, heating the prints, taking them apart, and even putting them in the microwave. Sparks flew(!) and each image was unique, yet a style clearly emerged that was all my own.

Such a shame the stock was discontinued. Here’s a couple of my prints. Click for a closer look.

 ……Micheal Read-Shaw: distressed polaroid ...Liz Hossack: distressed polaroid

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