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Multimedia Art With Urban Projections

Multimedia Artist, Rebecca Smith talks about the latest audio-visual trends and how to deliver stunning mixed media experiences

From live visuals and digital graffiti to projection mapping and interactive environments, the future of events is here. Toast.Life chats to multimedia artist Rebecca Smith of Urban Projections to hear more about her wow factor work as well as what the future may bring, plus her top tips for introducing digital art to your next event.

Light Cycle Urban Projections

There is no denying that we live in a digital age; from iPhones and laptops to smart watches and Snapchat – technology influences our daily lives from the minute we wake up, to the minute we fall asleep (having avoided all screen time 30-minute prior, of course…). So of course, it was only a matter of time before the powerful effect of digital technologies found its way in to the events world, and now the likes of digital graffiti, projection mapping and live visuals are considered the coolest way to inject some futuristic fun and digital wow factor, whatever the occasion.

“Projections have the ability to completely transform a space without altering it in any way"says  Rebecca Smith, founder and multimedia experamentalist of Urban Projections. To work with the fundamental structure or architecture of a space but enhance it and present it in a different way. Environments can be made, and can disappear just as quickly.”

“Projection can have a huge impact, even when on a small scale. We have a number of hand-held projectors which we use for projecting onto peoples clothing or objects, which can be really good fun at parties or events.”

The aptly-named Urban Projections is home to Rebecca’s work; fusing hand-crafted art forms with digital technologies, Rebecca’s work seeks to surprise and engage audiences with playfulness and interactivity. It crosses boundaries, combining hand crafted art-forms with digital technology, and each of her stunning ‘digital experiences’ are completely unique and utterly captivating. Rebecca Smith Urban Projections DJ

“I’m really lucky that my work is very varied. One moment it may be creating and performing live stage visuals for artists such as Stormzy or with the BBC Concert Orchestra, the next I may be creating installation environments for a high-end fashion house like Jimmy Choo" says Rebecca. 

"As well as working in collaboration with artists, brands and musicians, I also present my solo work in galleries and at live events. I’ve done all sorts, from Formula One parties and private events to warehouse raves!” Rebecca explains enthusiastically.

“I like to be playful with my work and to surprise the viewer. Technology heavily influences me; however, I try not to make things overtly complex to the viewer, in order to keep the experience pure. My aesthetic style often reflects this - I love to use the simplicity of white light juxtaposed with darkness and intense colour.”

Stage Design By Urban Projections

Talented creative Rebecca in fact began her career in the music industry, working in recording studios as an occasional sound engineer / ‘tea runner’, which lead her to electronic music production and turntablism. She toured for a while as a turntablist (scratch DJ) in early 2000 and had residencies in nightclubs such as The Bomb in Nottingham, but her passion for visual art beckoned, and so she established Urban Projections as a name for her work to be created under.

“I wanted the name to be a little ambiguous in order to leave room for collaborations and group projects rather than emphasis being solely on me, and at the time my work was heavily influenced by street art” she explains.

“But ‘Urban Projections’ is a little ironic now - my studio is now actually really rural, and I work in lots of different mediums other than just projection!”

Urban Projections Stage Design

Mist Projections By Urban Projections

Rebecca's varied work challenges, innovates, surprises and delights in a variety of environments and has be seen in dozens of prestigious venues throughout the UK and Europe, such as The Saatchi Gallery, Royal Festival Hall, Nottingham Contemporary and The Roundhouse. However, her work is equally at home on the streets or in unusual outdoor locations; with a heavy influence of street art culture, and a love of abandoned sites and objects, Rebecca often uses forgotten spaces as a canvas for much of her work. 

“Much of the work that I create is site specific, so draws heavily from its surroundings. I begin by getting to know the space really well, and how it is viewed or interacted with by people. From there, I can then begin to draw up the creative ideas. Sometimes these are directly influenced by the space, whilst others may come from a particular concept or narrative” she explains.

“There are always some surfaces or environments that work better than others, and sometimes it’s surprising which these are. Generally, large amounts of ambient light quash the power of the projection, and surfaces such as glass do not hold the projected image well. I like to experiment and play with projection surfaces, using everything from mist to the inside of caves!”

Building Projection

Usually one of Rebecca pieces will take several weeks to come to fruition; she works by sharing inspiration, drawings, pictures and colour palettes with whomever she may be working with, before creating scaled-down versions of the piece to check that it is all going to work.

“It’s important to test things out, as they can look very different projected to how they look on screen. This usually forms the proof-of-concept for whatever process or output we are developing. Quite often we throw a lot of material and ideas away, and I think that’s a really valuable process. I’ve learned not to be too precious with things that we make or think up. Half of the creative process is throwing stuff out and sifting the important elements that should stay” she explains.

“Over the years, I’ve learned how to match the creative content with the technical specifications in order to ensure a piece is the best it can be. When creating large-scale projection mapped pieces, the pressure is particularly on. Budgets increase with the tech required for large projection artwork, and you often only get one shot. I’ve developed a range of methods for creating and testing proof of concept. This is a really important process -testing, testing and more testing!”

Urban Projections Interactive Murals

Along with projection mapping (where an image can be specifically placed or mapped onto the features and contours of an object or surface), Rebecca can also create bespoke live visuals for performances and events using graphic media, film and real-time interaction. She can also create incredible interactive environments, in which the audience and participants can safely explore their senses, blurring the line between the physical and digital worlds. The most ordinary spaces can be transformed into captivating environments in which the audience can immerse themselves with new experiences. Additionally, her street projections are one of the most effective and exciting ways of intriguing your guests and catching them by surprise. ​

“People respond really well to the Light Cycle - my mobile projection device housed in a cargo bike” she explains.

“It’s a great solution to mobile projection whilst also being really fun. It gets used for all kinds of events – we’ve lead group-cycle movie screenings, where we cycle to different locations for pop-up cinemas, projected live digital graffiti where an artist creates a digital mural on a building, and even projected messages for social campaigns on famous landmarks.”  

Urban Projections Bike Projector

With over 15 years’ experience, Rebecca has an outstanding reputation for being one of the very best in the business. Recently, Urban Projections worked in collaboration with Contemporary British Artist Mat Collishaw to create an incredible 4D mapped installation environment for the launch of the Jimmy Choo Vices Collection at One Mayfair.

Based on the beautiful Naica mines in Mexico, specially created video footage was intricately mapped around towering shards and crystal clusters. Lights, pulsating glows and shadow effects were overlaid onto footage of tower blocks, rain and traffic to enhance the effect of light refracting through crystal shards. The evolving environment set the tone for a totally unique and unforgettable evening, in which diners sat amongst the crystal metropolis and enjoyed a lunch created by acclaimed chef and restauranteur Mark Hix, MBE.

“We projection mapped three huge crystal structures, which were up to 9m in height, suspended above the audiences head as they dined. It created the most beautiful and surreal experience” Rebecca explains.

Jimmy Choo Environment Urban Projections

When creating digital content, Rebecca often looks to nature or landscapes as inspiration for her work. She often digitises the textures, colours or gradients that she finds, and these then feed into the overall aesthetic or architecture of a space. She is also heavily influenced by street art and geology, and her approach to her every piece of work is entirely bespoke, ensuring that each and every project feels entirely unique.

“Each piece of work I create is made from scratch and based upon the environment in which it will be presented. I use each project as a means to explore something new, whether it’s a new concept, technology or aesthetic” she explains.

“One of my favourites was a contemporary performance at Manchester Cathedral, commemorating a WW1 action called the Battle of Manchester Hill. We used several layers of gauze material to build an almost holographic layered projection, in which poets and musicians sat within. It was quite an emotional experience seeing the story come to life in such a beautiful way”

Urban Projects By Rebecca Smith Projection Mapping

Rebecca’s work is often very moving. It can evoke a sense of wonder and delight, and often seems so beautifully and uniquely surreal it’s like you’ve stepped in to the future. If the likes of projection mapping, digital graffiti and interactive environments are the here and now - the mind boggles when considering what the future may bring in terms of digital experience, at events or otherwise.

“We’ve seen projection move from being a fairly self-contained art form, to blurring its boundaries much more. I think that projection merged with other sensory experiences will continue to forge forward and lead us to think even more creatively - I hope to continue more of my work creating sensory environments, mixing audio-visuals with taste, smell and touch” she explains.

“I use quite an array of software and hardware within my work, which constantly evolve and change. I have to ensure that I keep on top of new technologies, and find appropriate ways of experimenting with them.”

REBECCA'S TOP TIPS FOR HAVING DIGITAL ART AT YOUR NEXT EVENT

  • Find the Right Artist - I think that finding the right artist for the brief is really important. Search out someone whose work you really love, and that you will trust to hand over your ideas to. This makes the creative process much more rewarding for both the client and the artist, as it allows for so much more creative freedom.

  • Set Your Budget - When it comes to budgets, be realistic about what is achievable with technology. AV hardware and expertise can be expensive on a large scale, so speak with someone who has professional experience and be transparent about your budget from the start. This will save lots of time and will help you find a solution which is the best for you.

  • Keep An Open Mind! - There are lots of amazing independent projection artists who can deliver stunning pieces; it doesn’t have to be a large production-house to create high profile artwork.

If you’d like to work with Urban Projections to create something visually unique for your next event, you can find more information and contact details on their page in Toast.Life’s Little Black Book.  

 
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