LIGHT PLAY WITH CRITICAL PROJECTIONS
TEXT SIOBHAN MCNABB
IAN DE GRUCHY HAS BEEN WORKING WITH PROJECTION SINCE THE1980'S AND HAS PRODUCED INSTALLATIONS, AUDIO-VISUAL PRESENTATIONS AND OTHER COMMERCIAL WORK, COLLABORATED IN THEATER PERFORMANCES, CONSTRUCTED AMBIENT ENVIRONMENTS AS PART OF HIS MELBOURNE BASED PRACTICE ART PROJECTION, AND ALSO TAUGHT PROJECTION TO ARCHITECTURE AND INTERIOR DESIGN STUDENTS. THERE ARE WORKS THAT ARE LOCATED IN EXTERIOR SPACES OF THE CITY AND IN INTERIOR SPACES OF GALLERIES, THEATRES AND NIGHTCLUBS.
Altering, extending and adding
to a building's structure and surface with light,
de Gruchy utilizes public spaces as canvas, pedestrians as his critics, and his muses, bewildering them in fanciful and disarming projections of images and movement. Making applicable the argument that temporary public art is a more responsive, approach to our transitory way of life and the ever-changing dynamics and complexities of our societies and multitude of cultures. "The work set up the possibility of a different type of dialogue,"
de Gruchy says, "the appropriation of this wall as a subversive billboard space, which in turn allowed the projected image to be critically responsive to contemporary cultural idiom, as well as to the wall and city itself." Other architects and designers share similar visions. Peter Eisenman is one example. He writes: "'in all design arts we are experiencing a paradigm shift from mechanical to electronic modes of production; from an age of interpretative technique to one of mediation." de Gruchy's work takes place in space and is produced by space, rather than being about space. Although produced on 3D space, it is not a 3D object, nor does it contain space through the 3D object, yet it creates new meaning and perception of space and of 3D objects, a temporary canvas which become his cart blanche.
Interactivity is also an element of his interventions. A passer by gets caught between the canvas and the projector merging with one another. Suddenly the art changes in look, the object changes, the art moves due to this chance encounter, reinterpretation, re-configuration.
If de Gruchy's art projections change the state of architecture and surface through the interplay of light and darkness, light and shadow, then what new thoughts are held with regards to our own shadows during everyday situations? Similar questions are asked in the modern Western art world where the artist's work blurs with the artist and the viewer. This sense of interactivity was appropriately represented in his earlier work in nightclubs and other interior spaces where transitory passers by and crowds often became united with his shifting images and scenes, light and shadows. Multi-projected images came from standard Kodak projectors with a range of wide-angle lenses. Interval timers were set at 10 to I5 seconds for controlled image changes. Very simple, yet effective, these projects relied on randomisation to constantly change the overlapping image permutations to creating a continually evolving image space. These images used the architectural space and surface as the screen for the projections. In the process de Gruchy developed a flexible mounting system using brackets and tripod heads to locate and install projectors. This allowed positioning possible to sculpt with image, light and space.
Rather than separate, isolate, autonomous entities, light and shadow extended and stretched onto various surfaces of subject and object, figure and ground. This shift suggests different1ways of thinking about space and time.
The Cartesian view of the world, which locates subject and object, figure and ground at the basis of knowledge, and has dominated modern Western thought, becomes untenable as form becomes continuous.
Rational structure became stretched, losing its frames of reference, rectilinear become oblique. In such disorientation comes the possibility of the unexpected, rational and irrational image and the loss of perception, markers, indicators. Instead are endless zones of space and time. What seemed concrete, structural, robust and sturdy (a built form) is lost in lines, images, and light and shadows, and sometimes movement. The projections fit tightly on to a wall and wrap around buildings, they seem to be painted on, or the building totally vanishes and the 2D projection becomes a real 3D object. Because of this one looses a sense of common Western markers such as perspective and vanishing points. Quite often, de Gruchy's projects resemble nighttime apparitions, complete with magical, quirky, humorous, confrontational, thought-provoking hallucinations. His
projection of a tree onto a city building, produces gut reactions. The tree souring high above the skyline, the size of the wall. Suddenly one looks up and is confronted with a giant tree in the cityscape, it seems as though its familiar, meant to be there, blends in but one knows that it is out of place It gives one a sense of mysticism, as though you are the only one to see it, as though its your own special secret and you won der whether it's just your imagination./ Or a pile of books rising out of buildings, hidden in the dark depths of alleyways: the books, meters wide and tall as buildings. These are some of the magic de Gruchy plants through out cities of the world. Secrets only to be seen at night, in the dark - when, as children, we used to think the fairies and pixies came out. The images often represent what is in the building and bring this identity to the outside, resulting in more public awareness. Because his images often relate to the site and history of the area, de Gruchy's seems like it is meant to be, that it has always been around, and as though it sometimes just appears - like an ancestral ghost coming out to show its self, making its. presence, then disappearing., At a recent Adelaide Festival, for example, he changed the Festival Centre, using 6, 40OW Simda projectors, into an Australian aboriginal traditional hut structure. Changing the art space into a corrugated iron shack was a subversive idea reminding the public that the centre was built on an important Aboriginal settlement site. Sub-heading: MELBOURNE TOWN HALL TRANSFORMED Melbourne's town hall was also the canvas for one of de Gruchy's recent works, in a project that celebrated the history of the city, paying homage to the Victoria’s history and culture in a sequential way through a sight and sound performance.
Historic events and artefacts literally transformed the hall's facade with images, movements, colours and sounds. While mainly projecting on to the surface, with 2D images, de Gruchy conjured the impression of 3D objects by cleverly utilizing the architectural structure and shape of the town hall. He projected the front of a car on to the building; suddenly the porte cochere became the car's protruding radiator.
Other projections acted as tribute to significant events in the city's history such as settlement, the hanging of Ned Kelly, and a field of red poppies in remembrance of the World Wars. The accompanying soundscape, composed by Chris Knowles and Dan Witton, were sounds of the city going back to its aboriginal heritage and the original aboriginal tribes, to modernization and sound of today.
A combination of large-format projectors were required to produce images to cover the 85 meter wide facade, including the distinctive high clock tower. The projectors were installed on shop awnings directly across from the hall. Sydney based events lighting specialist, The Electric Canvas, provided the film scrolls and projectors. Together they accurately captured architectural features that allowed accurate projection onto the building facade. They used a Pigi projection system to map the colour and images on to the building precisely. The images de Gruchy chose were manipulated into masks to create accurate film for projection. In all, six scrolling projectors were used to cover the enormous building facade, three of which were 700OW Pigi large format projectors, each with double scrollers so that two in dependent film strips could be in the gate at the same time to create awe inspiring results. The other three projectors were 500OW Xenon projectors with single scrollers providing support images to cover smaller areas of the facade and clock tower. Screens were installed across the balcony of the town hall so that images could be rear-projected from 3 S mm and vi deo projectors. Slide projectors were used for a 20 minute pre-show where millennium messages from famous Victorians were screened and the vi deo projector provided footage of a huge eyeball, and of a young Queen Elizabeth, waving from the balcony. The control system accurately synchronized the visual effects and the soundtracks.
de Gruchy also works with famous American artist Barbara Kruger, another internationally acclaimed artist of cultural and social criticism. Her work is strategically placed in cities around the world on billboards and other eye-catching public places - fusing art with advertising - subversive messages of social critic to abruptly arrest peoples culturally attuned minds and ways of life. Her work, like de Gruchy's, is often taken off the street and into gallery spaces. Her work comprises mvainly of words, text, occasionally in video format. The text is projected on to walls, floors and ceilings engulfing the space and the viewer. Obviously each gallery has a different space and shape resulting in having to alter and reconfigure the projected text. de Gruchy works with Kruger to recompose the projected images and placements so that the text flows seamlessly in new spaces. To do this de Gruchy has a method, which he also uses for his own work, where he works out a Cartesian-type grid, refits, and juggles the projections, altering the throw distances and angles to precisely fit in the new context.
For Barbara Kruger's installation "Power, Pleasure, Desire, Disgust" in Zurich, they used 20 Kodak Ektapro 5040 projectors controlled by five Dataton SmartPaxes to sequence the text projections on the walls and floors. The slides for the installation were split and then optically corrected to fit the prepared architectural space exactly. The slide program was recorded and played back on a repeating CD player. The three vi deo projections were created using rear projection screens, vi deo projectors and repeating DVD players. With all slide projectors mounted in the ceiling, the result was a totally encompassing installation with all technology generating the installation completely out of the way.
de Gruchy's work is caught in the middle, momentarily and immaterially. His acute awareness of the limits of light, and darkness, allows him to go beyond, capturing moments in time and space, folding and distorting his canvases, and our perceptions, in the darkness of his work with the fastest medium of all - light. He knows the magic of photography and pushes #the boundary. Physically and theoretically he gives us an opportunity to think through ideas to do with space and the relation between object and subject, figure and ground, in a colourful, precise, humorous, inspiring, stylised and thought provoking magical way with the use of images, slides and projections.
Ian de Gruchy - Art Projection homepage