Buckle up and project: that was the mission of a group of art “interventionists”, firing guerilla projections at the public installation of artist Sol LeWitt in Manhattan’s City Hall Park. The weapon of choice itself is one of interest: a self-powered mobile projection rig means live visuals can appear anywhere.

The production team describes the project:

Wikipedia defines an art intervention as ‘an interaction with a previously existing artwork, audience or venue/space.’ Integrated Visions Productions and National Media Services approached the Sol LeWitt exhibition ‘Structures’ in New York’s City Hall Park (sollewitt.publicartfund.org​) with this concept in mind. Utilizing one of NMS’s ProjectionMan self-powered mobile projection units to redefine the idea of guerilla videomapping, the IVP/NMS team was able to line up the template and accurately videomap the three sculptures seen in this video with about 5 minutes of on-site prep per piece. The results are stunning; the sculptures come, literally, to life. [Ed.: Uh — literally, they come to life? That’s terrifying. -PK]

Creative Team
Producer: Brian Blessinger
Animation and Art Direction: Michelle Dodson, Bryan Dodson
Soundtrack: Crawwwl by Big Friendly Giant [on SoundCloud]

ProjectionMan by
National Media Services Inc
BlueBlast Media

ProjectionMan operated by Tyrone Tanous

I asked producer Brian Blessinger to tell us more about the backpack projection setup, pictured below:

As far as the ProjectionMan rig, it was designed by our logistics partners at BlueBlast Media and National Media Services. It’s battery-powered and is designed to be fully mobile. The rig is built as a suit that fits around the operator. The 12 volt battery is worn like a backpack. Each battery lasts about an hour before it has to be swapped out. It supports a 2500-lumen HD projector.

You’d think a man with a projector on his back would look happier, but… Photo courtesy Brian Blessinger.
  • It's not really guerrilla if they had the cooperation of the public art fund! I also have a problem with the projections themselves – they neither complement not enhance the LeWitt work – it's kind of like graffiti – mostly about itself, loudly.   But, surreptitiously scanning a structure with hidden Kinects and then mapping video created on the spur of the moment to make some kind of relevant political statement:  that would be guerilla  projection mapped video!
     But going pedestrian-portable is a good start, I'd say. 

  • I have to agree with Henry. It's interesting to see how quickly projection mapping has started to recycle very similar ideas and visual aesthetics – the Vivid festival here in Sydney last month hammered that home for me (that could have been an issue of design by committee, though – true guerilla projection could break the mould).

    The problem of technology and tools for mapping is more or less done. We've now got so much available to us, that I think the conversation needs to go elsewhere. I'd like to hear more about how people are approaching this as a visual language. After all, with portable units like the one above, we've now got the opportunity to engage with practically any canvas we can find.

  • neb

    I definitely agree with Scott: we need to give more attention to live visual mediums and language. Visualism may be nearing a balancing point in terms of finding a cultural impact of subtle ubiquity. As an online/offline medium, it is competitively responsive to emergent social dynamics. To me, as a branch of technological progress, 'interactive and visual' feels like it has the most expansive potential.

    Concerning the quality of current work, the US live-visuals market lags far behind current technical progress. There isn't much structure to support artists' development. Even though we may see the value of the medium, most venues and promotional entities don't understand it in the slightest. There's a huge opportunity for someone to step in and do things well, but dedicated visualists are mostly on their [very expensive] own.

    As the tools mature, artistic and commercial applications should become less abstract. There's still a lot of work to be done in drilling down from broad themes to a higher semantic and expressive resolution. Even given a foundation of social and industrial support, though, a competent live visualist represents diverse skills demanding of lifetime commitment.

  • Peter Kirn

    These are interesting ideas, but it seems we're talking around the idea. Let's see your work, hear your ideas, hear your proposals for how to do better events — or the work, ideas, events that you think are moving forward?

    This is, after all, just one piece.

  • Just to clarify, the piece was shot last Sunda night, June 26, with no permission from Public Art Fund or the city of New York. We just showed up and did it. I did, however, send the resulting video to Public Art Fund Tuesday afternoon, and was delighted to find that not only did they like it, they totally understood and supported what we were trying to do.

    We did this because the sculptures moved us, and we don't see live video – whatever the quality, heh – in New York, or anywhere in the US, as much as we'd like. Point me to your public events and I'll be there. Send me videos of same and I'll share them.

  • @Peter, I'm not trying to say that this is not a fine work (and definitely not that I'm capable of producing better!), it simply triggered a conversation about how we create a dialogue with the environment we're engaging with. Without that dialogue, I really do think video projection runs the danger of becoming little more than cheap parlour tricks. AntiVJ and 1024 Architecture are two groups that immediately come to mind for continually pushing the boundaries.

    @Brian, I think you've done an excellent job of creating a portable mapping setup. I'd really like to hear more about the conceptual process of creating content for those specific sculptures though.

  • I did a mobile projection back in November & December (2010)….I called it a "mobile installation". The use of my projector was similar in that I had it move with me & had a battery in a backpack…however, I projected the image onto myself…I plan to do more of this in the future. It's exciting the see fellow (digital) artists coming up with similar ideas and running with it! 🙂 Here's a peek at my project: http://cargocollective.com/amberstudio#842744/Mob

  • Very nice use of the bar ctuoner there. I am building an almost identical set up right now.

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