Category Archives: Artworks

The Tree That Blinked at Singapore Night Festival

The Tree That Blinked - LayszaSingapore Night Festival audience
Click on any image to expand

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This is quite mystical. In some parts of Asia, we believe there are spirits which reside in trees. Here, the British artist Karel Bata marries the persona of the tree with the portraits of people who had inspired him. Look closely at the details as the projections are set against the tree… then watch as it blinks and morphs into another face. Ingenious.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – –– David Sucha, Life’s Tiny Miracles

The one that did catch my attention was The Tree that Blinked. This ghostly display uses spotlights to form a person’s face on a large Banyan Tree, which then blink and change every now and then.  …the face literally pops out at you the moment you shift into the correct viewing spot. I found this to be very, very smart.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – –The Scribbling Geek

My favourite of the whole festival however was The Tree That Blinked. It was amazing in so many ways, but the symbolism behind it was subjective which meant different meanings could come from this animated projection.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – Kara Bertoncini, The AU Review

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In 2017 Singapore Night Festival celebrated their 10th anniversary with 600,000 visitors. They had seen my earlier work and asked me to create something around their century-old Banyan tree to celebrate its antiquity. I was happy to oblige with my installation The Tree That Blinked.

It is a series of digitally manipulated portraits projected into an old Banyan tree in which I trigger and explore the mystery and myths that form such a large part of our perception of woodlands. The work moves and shifts as the leaves are blown in the wind, so facial expressions seem to change too and the faces appear to undergo transformations of age and identity. Blended with real movements in the faces, and subtle morphs from face to face, this provides a compelling illuison of something alive within the tree, of spirits within.

This was first shown in embryonic form at Gallery 286 in London. At the time viewers referenced childhood stories or experiences of mysterious forests and strange creatures, and even ideas of layered consciousness. Some saw the tree as benign. I have taken these comments on board, and the piece has grown with these ideas.

Click for video (2 mins)

Jonathan Ross 286 Poster 2

Some stills (Click any image to see a larger version)

TTTB Lyra Singapore Night FestivalTTTB Tree 1.49.12TTTB Katie Bailey SingaporeTTTB Tree 1.31.18TTTB Law 3

The audience loved it!
Audience 2.13.04 B (0.00.00.09)Audience 6 B (0.00.00.09)Audience 11 B (0.00.00.09)

A video (4 mins) of The Tree That Blinked first presentation at Gallery 286
with audience reactions.
TTTB screen shot sml

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The Disinhibitor (Memories Can’t Wait)

Memories Can't Wait, preview
Click to enlarge

Using The Disinhibitor, an apparatus I invented as part my MA research into Stereo 3D
at Ravensbourne College, Memories Can’t Wait is a truly immersive installation – a lucid
out-of-body experience that playfully challenges our notions of the space we inhabit.

Wearing custom 3D glasses, visitors are led into a large dark room where a simple, but carefully thought-out arrangement of lasers and projectors, working with a multi-channel soundscape, create a virtual environment in which they appear to float between moving planes of stars that stretch out to infinity.

 Memories dance 820 video

Video (2 minutes)

Video (1 minute) with a different selection of shots.

A taste of the audience’s reaction – which often starts as excitement, followed
by a more meditative period – can be heard here: Video (1 minute)

This proved very popular and was staged several times at Ravensbourne, each time
with the settings tweaked to create a different immersive experience:

Memories Can't wait
10. Memories Can't Wait
17. 'A captivated visitor' 2
10. Memories Can't Wait
16. The 'Tunnel'
. .  Click any image to enlarge.

If you have 3D glasses handy you can get a hint of the effect with some of the
images – click to enlarge, and try tilting your head.
But it’s only a hint…

13. Memories Can't Wait
14. The floor
16. The 'Tunnel'
Karel Bata - Immersive Environments
Visitors to Memories Can't Wait
17. 'A captivated visitor' 2
Click any image to enlarge

Shoreditch Digital
The Disinhibitor has been staged several times since. It became The nDimensional Basement at Shoreditch Digital Festival 2015. This was a much smaller space, creating a more intimate environment. Without a doubt it was the most popular exhibit.

Memories Shoreditch lone girl Memories Shoreditch Man hand
Memories Shoreditch Viral + 2
Memories Shoreditch 2 girls

– Click any image to enlarge –

The Disinhibitor was seen again at Lumen Gallery’s ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ in London on December 7 2015.


The Disinhibitor (Lamentations)
To be premiered in London, early 2018.

Lamentations uses a motion detection system linked to custom software that interprets participants’ movements and translates them into music built from the harmonies in Thomas Tallis’ 16th Century choral composition Lamentations. The aim is to create an immersive environment rich with spritual resonances.

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Note to arts curators:
Though The Disinhibitor requires some very specific components, a few of which may need to be hired in, in the right environment it is quick to set up – less than a day.
For best effect it needs a large totally blacked out room with a plain gray floor. Obviously few places are exactly like that. The video shows it done in a TV studio with black drapes. At Shoreditch Digital I laid a large sheet of translucent gray plastic on the floor.
There are five principal modes of viewing gained by a choice of two types of 3D glasses (more in the pipeline!) and the two sources of projection – the lasers and the stars, which can be selected individually or combined. Some spaces incline more to one effect than others.
The effect of floating in space diminishes as the number of people in the room increases – they, and their shadows, will block the view of the floor.
Some people – about 1% – hate it and get vertigo immediately. Well, you can’t please everyone…
This all takes place in a darkened space with lasers (though low-powered and safe) so there needs to be a responsible person in the room. I like to take advantage of this by having an ‘usher’ that leads people in and gives the event a theatrical edge.
I would love to stage this in a really huge dark space…

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Out Of Darkness (Virtual Light 1)

Out of Darkness

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. (Few are left unimpressed.)

Out of Darkness Brighton
Click to play video Out of Darkness
note: the flicker visible in the video above is due to camera frame-rate. Likewise the color has been reproduced inaccurately. The live piece is creamy white and free from any flicker or artifacts.

The music here was added during editing for Vimeo. The piece itself is silent.

This installation has also been shown at London Decompressed (Burning Man), Gallery 286, and Flux.

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Note to arts curators:
Much of Out Of Darkness can be prepped off-site. But because the specific geometry of the venue is important here the final assembly and filming needs to be done on site. Providing that rigging the projector is straightforward, this would take the best part of 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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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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