Tag Archives: tree

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 Tree That Blinked

The Tree Face WP 720
 Click any image to enlarge

The Tree That Blinked is a projection-mapped self-portrait toying with notions of identity, representation, and transformation.

The work moves and shifts as the leaves of the tree move with the wind. The expression thus seems to change, and the face appears to undergo changes of age.

The illusion can be compelling. Some folks think the leaves have been individually painted. Others that the tree must have been trimmed to the shape of my head!

Trying to give the work any specific ‘meaning’ is elusive, perhaps even pointless, as viewers bring their own strong personal interpretations. Generally they reference ideas of layered consciousness, and childhood stories of journeys into the forest. Some see it as actively benign, and The Wizard of Oz is frequently mentioned. Somewhere between these interpretations lies some kind of meaning…

It was first shown at Jonathan Ross’s Gallery 286 as part of an exhibition of self-portraits (he does have the perfect garden) and received an enthusiastic reception captured here by videographer Viral Mistry:

The Tree That Blinked on Vimeo

Click to play video: The Tree That Blinked

The Tree That Blinked 615

With Jonathan Ross at Gallery 286
Jonathan Ross, Gallery 286

The Tree That Blinked was staged as part of the Canary Wharf’s 2014
Winter Lights spectacular, outside One Canada Square.
TTTB CW web still 2
 Karel Bata

In 2017 it was a major part of Singapore Night Festival
TTTB Lyra Singapore Night Festival

There is a blog about the Singapore installation here –
The Tree That Blinked at Singapore Night Festival (WordPress)

 

Note to arts curators:
The installation needs a roughly suitably shaped tree, along with very low ambient light – in total darkness it is amazing (really!).
The projector needs to be relatively close to the tree (ideally as close as a fully zoomed out projector lens allows) above head height, and as close to the eye-line of the visitors as possible. As you move away the effect breaks up, but this works in its favor when as you approach the tree there comes a point where visitors suddenly ‘see’ a face! The video shows that.
This installation only works in the dark after sunset, and many trees lose their foliage each year. In the UK this limits usage to autumn, though it will work well on a suitably-shaped Christmas tree.
At Gallery 286 we used my own 2.8K lumens projector. At Canary Wharf 6K. At Singapore 18k. The level of ambient light is the biggest factor determining the power required.
Once installed this can be left running. Power can be switched off to the whole set-up during the day to save the bulb, and my custom media player will boot itself up on power-up. Someone just has to switch it on and off.

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