Of Projection and Pikzls

Visual Projection Art is one of the newest kids on the (visual arts) block ….the new pixel in the pie.  Concepts and ideas centering around the throw of imagery onto a surface are evolving all the time, with projection mapping being one of the techniques at the forefront of this technology.  Although around since the late ’60s when it was known as video mapping, projection mapping is used to turn often irregularly shaped objects, such as buildings or theatrical stages, into a display surface.  In fact anything with a surface can become a screen, where imagery can be specifically ‘placed’ without distortion onto the features and contours of the object.  Often accompanied by audio, in the form of sound effects and music, to create an audio-visual narrative, this technique is used by artists and advertisers, musicians and DJs, designers and organisers and just about anybody looking to add that extra dimension and wow factor to their event, installation, interactive project, festival, performance, set design, nightclub, conference or workshop.

The visual artists working in the field of projection art range from VJs and live projection mappers to 2D and 3D animators to videographers and editors to programmers and motion graphic designers.  And still there are more artists finding ways to showcase or interact with their art through the process of projection.  A VJ (video jockey) is a realtime visual performer, that selects, creates and/or manipulates imagery, often synchronising to music for the most part, through the use of software and hardware devices.  Think of it like DJing…..just swap the music for imagery.  A VJ in this sense is not to be confused with a VJ on a commercial music TV station, like MTV and VH1, who introduces music videos, just like a DJ on radio is very different from a DJ at a party.    Typically you will see the work of a VJ in a night club or at events such as concerts and music festivals, but you won’t easily see the VJ, who is often found tucked away behind the scenes.  Sometimes in the case of live audiovisual multimedia performances, a VJ will perform in the public eye alongside actors, dancers, performance artists and musicians.

Another fairly new and developing genre within media art that involves visual projection is live cinema, which is an experimental approach to narrative and non-narrative film making, an alternative to screening a traditional, linear edited film.  Combining live music and the performing arts, a live cinema performance allows artists the freedom to experiment and improvise using a selection of different material, prepared video clips, audio visual samples and generative visuals, the latter being art created either entirely or in part with the use of an autonomous system such as a computer.


unnamed-1All that info just so we can introduce Mary Pikzl (aka Kirsti Cumming in the real world), a globally-minded Zimbabwean-born visual artist dabbling in all matters pixel-related.  With experience in VJing, projection mapping and live cinema, she finds herself drawn to the art of collage, creating live digital montages from cyber-organic found footage.  Using colours, shapes, patterns and themes to guide the flow of content, Mary Pikzl’s modus operandi is to combine real life imagery with digital content, in as many scenarios and situations as possible.  Pop-Up CineMA chatted to her about some of the inner workings of the Visual Projection Art world and her journey into it.

Fascinated with the combination of music and visual content in all its many forms, she found herself studying multimedia as a way to learn a little bit about everything – focusing on just one thing is something she finds hard to do.  Long after her college days in Seattle, and after moving to Cape Town, she discovered the art of VJing at outdoor parties, which was a revelation and, as she was soon to discover, just the tip of the ‘projection’ iceberg.  Slowly but surely she has been exposed to a whole world of possibilities incorporating projection art through her involvement in a wide range of projects: from an exhibition on ‘Reversing the Legacy of the 1913 Land Act’ at the CTICC, to the performance-rich theme reveal for Cape Town Carnival, to an album launch for ‘We Set Sail’, a local experimental electronic band and of course the obligatory night club and outdoor party visuals.  Her most challenging and exciting project to date was creating and projection mapping content onto a 5m high ouroboros, a mythological tail-devouring snake, that was a key element in Daya Heller’s art installation, ‘Lilith & the Garden of Eden’, at Afrika Burn last year.

With her smorgasbord of skills and talents, she splits her time between working in production and post-production in the film industry, and freelance contracts and projects, where she can be found doing anything from videography and editing, web and graphic design, photography and motion graphics to copywriting, social media and project management.  She recently did a 6 month contract back in her home country, where she decided to take a little bit of the Pop-Up CineMA love to the people of Vic Falls.  She is currently working on a number of exciting projects including editing a video for a revolutionary renewable energy crowd-funding site; creating visual projection content for an original African theatre production incorporating opera singers and actors; producing and editing a short film highlighting the work of an NGO pioneering new and effective ways to improve the lives of street people; and creating visual content for a live audiovisual performance with a local techno music artist.  Her love of travel has taken her all over the world but now it’s time to travel inwards and develop her creativity to the next level.  She’s always on the lookout for obscure and unique surfaces on which to projection map and the chance to connect with other creative souls through collaborative works.