The Studio of Eric Valosin

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

As Above, So Below, Part 1

[A quick note from the fuuuuuuture: if you'd like to follow the progress of this project from the beginning you're in the right place. If you're feeling impatient and you'd like to jump to the ending, you can do so here. Now then, enough anachronism. Where were we?)

Amid all the other stuff going on right now (install and an opening for a museum show, my son's second birthday, moving, and being in a wedding, all in the next week and a half!) I've also got this series of events coming up in July (see the third announcement here for more info), centered around a commissioned church installation.

The choir loft/chancel area has this fantastic sloped forced-perspective style ceiling that I thought would be lovely to project onto, so I will be creating an interactive projection piece called As Above, So Below, which will, in some form, transport the congregants onto that ceiling space. 

First, I began testing out some projection options, and then masking off the projection to anamorphically map to the ceiling space...

Trying to maximize throw distance without blinding whoever's preaching...

By drawing off the boundaries of the ceiling in illustrator and projecting black wherever the ceiling isn't, I was able to isolate the space for projection.

Here it is, the anamorphic projection with a grid to show "verticals" and "horizontals"...

...which actually look like this when laid flat, on account of the distortion from the angle of the ceiling and of the projector.
 My ultimate plan is to do something along the lines of using a Kinect sensor to project the silhouettes of the congregants into different overlapping positions on the ceiling, coalescing to reveal a stained glass like imagery, or perhaps in some places cutting away to reveal sky, or some other imagery. I tend to be pretty calculating with this sort of stuff, so I'm deliberately letting the imagery evolve as it goes, to see what kind of interesting stuff happens when I start overlaying transparencies and letting the images spill out as they please.

But in the mean time, I couldn't help myself...

Pretending that I'm James Turrell, if only for a moment! So satisfying! It really makes it hard to go back to thinking about imagery after immersing yourself in an endless array of colored light options!

Ok, where was I? Ah yes...

Mapped off the locations of the light fixtures and whatnot, so that I can design around them if need be

Taking note of the projector location (I'm a bit worried about that, but I've been told "put it wherever you need to!" I deliberately avoided the center aisle space (there are normally chairs arranged in rows like pews), but I worry about the line of sight for the people sitting behind the pedestal... here's hoping the payoff is worth the temporary inconvenience for them.

Some interesting conceptual things will end up happening because of the position of the kinect and the projection anamorphosis. For one, the Kinect will view people in front of the chancel area, but not in the chancel area. So, the spectators outside of the chancel area will be integrated into the area (inviting them up into the choir loft, sharing the space of the cross and blurring the line between sacred space and lay space), yet at the same time when one physically goes up there, their body will cease to be in the projection, and the image will become pixelated and distorted because of the severe ceiling angle. In away, this is the apophasis of the piece, as the closer you get to the divine representation, the more it falls apart and slips through your fingers. It's inviting and estranging at the same time.

In the same vein, the image will be created by the interactions of the lay people, not from the worship leaders. This de-centered socialization of the sacred space falls in line with my postmodern leanings towards a God that is found in all places, not just in the pious elite, and is revealed relationally.

This idea of "As above, so below" is apophatically postmodern as well, at once dualistic and non-dualistic. It can be read to imply that there is a split between the "above" and the "below," with a correlative relationship to each other (think Pauline Dualism). Or it can be read to imply that there is no split, that what we commonly thought to be "above" and "below" are actually one, not to be separated by distinction, beyond this recognition (think certain branches of kingdom theology). Its this ambiguity that I enjoy - the interplay between the "here" and the "there," and the disjunction/unification of the two that happens in the projection.

Next step is to translate that ceiling image mask to the imagery that will be revealed by the silhouettes, and then translate that all into Processing, which will control the whole interactive shindig! Ready, set, go!

...well, I was worried about the pedestal being too tall for people... I guess I don't have to worry about that any more! As I was transporting the pedestal back into my studio the top just popped right off in my hands! That shortens it a good 6 inches, anyway.
Follow this project to the next post about it here

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