Category Archives: Installation

Another Gray Area (1981)

Karel Bata - Another Gray Area 4

My experiments with image presentation led me in 1981 to create Another Grey Area. I’d read a book by Malcom Le Grice on experimental film and thought I’d try out something new. I rather liked the idea of projected images moving around and creating new spatial illusions.

Another Gray Area used a rig built from Meccano housing a spinning mirror linked to a motor, with the whole lot married to a Sony Portapak video camera mounted on top looking down into the mirror. As the mirror rotated the camera’s field-of-view covered 360 degrees.

I video-recorded a dancer in Sadler’s Wells Theatre’s rehearsal space dancing around the rig. The video was then transferred to Super-8 film (I filmed a TV screen!) and this was put in a projector, which replaced the camera on top of the mirror-rig. This then projected an image of the dancer that moved around the presentation room, thus creating the illusion of a portal into the original rehearsal space. 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 record turntable in 1980.

Another Grey Area was shown at several event spaces including Sadler’s Wells Theatre rehearsal rooms (where it had been shot), and the London Film-Makers Co-Op in 1981/2.

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

I went off to college to study film, then pursued a film career, and 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 for a while. The mirror broke long ago, but its rectangular frame survived. 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. It looks like something out of
2001, but it wasn’t even SD!

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