Open Stage Projection Mapping

We’ve been receiving loads of excellent projection mapping projects lately. The range of projects is great, and an awesome way to showcase one of the Touch Board and Pi Cap’s features.

This project comes from Canada. We caught up with one of the project creators Evelyne Drouin, Aka Dj Mini, who took projection mapping to another level.

Hello Evelyne! You’re a Sound & Multimedia artist with lots of interest in technology. Could you tell us more about yourself?

Hello, my background, in brief, is first dj’ing, then I managed clubs & events for many years, slowly growing my now “mythical” residency club night that ran for 7 years and had between 300 to 3000 people on a weekly basis. During the course of those years I got to invite a roster of artists from all over the world to come, dj, do live shows and experiment many concepts and content to our Montreal dance floor goers. During that same period, I started electronic music production which led me to compose 2 full-length albums, experiment live shows and produce many remixes and EP’s.

I then directed a large-scale performance and installation project in the immersive dome of Society of Technological Arts known as SATosphere, where dance, music and video content developed over the course of a 6 months residency period in the SAT’s spherical environment. This collective residency was presented as workshops and artist talks following content presentations. This allowed us to the complexity of the content over multiple events, and get feedback from the crowd to continue working on more polished content as we got the hang of the workflows.

This project sort of marked the reinvention of my career and approach to content, going more towards installations and interactive media arts was something new. Most recently I’ve put into motion my latest project, where the approach is more towards multidisciplinary, for kids, and artists to work together. We called this project GenieMob to separate it from the rest of the body of work, and it’s basically tech&arts workshops, residencies and day-camp programs that’s been growing since 3 years now. Education has been in my blood for generations, so it felt like a good time to see how my art-form could be put into the hands of the future generations to create participatory content where I got to be surrounded by young minds to inspire them and explore new creative endeavours.

In parallel, I am part of an artistic collective called Axon Art Collective, some of our members are more active than others, depending on outgoing projects. Many members helped out for Scènes Ouvertes, you’ll see some of their names pop-up in the interview.

You’re currently working on a very interesting project, the ‘’Scenes Ouvertes’’. What is this project all about?

The project Scènes Ouvertes / Open Stage has been a pilot developed over the last 10 years by Society of Technological Arts, and recently there have been major milestones: SAT has now 20 interfaces to connect stages in the province of Quebec, in the hopes that artists investigate new types of performances using telepresence.

Our mandate for this was to present content that made use of audio/visual and data feeds between two locations, and propose a 15-minute show where interactivity happens between Montreal and Quebec. We did a 4 channel sound, 3 different visual feeds, and 3 data feeds synchronises between SAT in Montreal and Rideau in Quebec.

Naoto Hieda and I did the first live performance, where  Eliane Ashkar, Colin Galatcher, Jan Anlauff and Jeffrey Dungen, from Axon Art Collective, also participated and supported the project by doing a small micro décor that ran with a Bare Conductive Pi Cap and Raspberry Pi, much experimentation and productions of our physical connected interfaces, known as our “blocks”. These interfaces that controlled certain elements of the micro decor, as well as movements of the visual component that Naoto was coding, lived and were handed out during the performance to audience members.

We assume you used DATA and interface design. What was your intent?

Indeed we did! During the course of our discussions, we targeted doing a large modular Rubicks cube that would light up, and that people could take pieces of the blocks apart. Those would’ve had different impacts on the environments, in both locations, as people manipulate them. It was a more “gamified” way to let many people interact with both spaces with these light up blocks, and discover what each one is doing as they are moving them in the space, as a sort of quest. But time-wise, this was much heavier to handle. We thought we had solid designs to host the electronics.

Budget constraints and the costs of batteries and assembly stopped us from completing this proposition to its full potential. So we made the blocks bigger and thought of handing them out, they did use data (Raspberry in Montreal and Quebec were synced through the Scenic stations). We simply designed adaptors to close off some EverBlocks, the blocks would then change colour on rotation, and make components of the micro decor in Montreal animate. Another one would make the projection change orientation, and I had one for changing another part of the projection and make the decor start moving with motors. That small decor was used as an instrument too, sometimes I’d pop my hand in and touch components which triggered sounds using the Pi Cap.

You used both the Touch Board which is an Arduino microcontroller and the Pi Cap, our Raspberry Pi add-on. Could you tell us more details about the way you used each of them?

During prototyping for Micro Decor we used the Touch Board, but since we had to do certain functions running on Bluetooth and connect wi-fi, we changed to the Pi Cap when we got our order from Adafruit. The Pi that was in Quebec had to connect to the one in Montreal so Pi’s were the best tools for the job. The Pi Cap was really easy to set-up, we were very happy to see it working minutes after unboxing.

What challenges or obstacles did you encounter by integrating creative electronics into your project?

Batteries. It wasn’t easy to find and or order, and there is no real way we found to know if your interface will last when it’s in the hands of the audience. Also, set-up time in Quebec was so short, we barely could test everything prior to the event. That’s also why we couldn’t do any video mapping. I still feel like the best proposition would’ve been to map one of two walls of the space, and create a sort of “window” between the two locations in that way, instead of showing us on a screen, map 1 to 1 from Montreal to Quebec, our studio so people feel more immersed in the work we’re doing live and we could both “feel” like we’re in the same location.

There are a few decorative elements. What was their purpose for?

I wanted to make something less serious than the past works people had seen at SAT, we were reaching out to a wider audience, and I had play in mind through the entire process. I guess I got influenced by doing much work with kids too. Also, so much electronics and the digital interface feels off balance sometimes. This was a fun way to create something with paper, scissors, and step away from the screen for a moment. I asked Eliane to help me design this fun and silly looking décor, which I would touch to make come alive certain sounds, and certain projection elements.

What was the outcome of the Open Stage project?

The performance seemed to excite the audience during the Rideau event in Quebec, a few weeks after that SAT was doing training and co-creation workshops to get the 20 rooms ready to start designing new propositions. Many of the cohorts saw right away the potential for education and designing interfaces to remotely have collaborators create content. It gave them a new key element demo’ed, the potential for DATA being exchanged between the locations and made it tangible to them.

It’s one thing to let them know they can do it, but another to show it as it happens, and have them experience it. That’s what SAT wanted to get out of commissioning our team to explore DATA uses for remote collaborations. We had two main run-throughs in Quebec, and a few hundreds of people got to see and participate in the performance.

We found each other quite fascinated by how people started interacting with there interfaces propositions. On one end for doing more play propositions, like building a micro decor with kids for GenieMob’s set of contents we can deploy with Art Centers or schools for kinaesthetic education purposes, but also, for creating new works by reusing some of those ideas in a different performance context.

Following the event Rideau in February, Naoto (who was the main co-creator for the project) set-up the blocks to control the visuals of the dome live during my Dj Set at SATosphere during Nuit blanche. During the musical performance, the audience could manipulate the blocks and change the orientation of the spherical projection which was mixed live by another Axon Art member, Hassan Aziz who was vj’ing live. We liked to let people explore our art form, it very empowering for the audience to be able to experience the work in an intimate way.

What’s in the pipeline for you and the team?

Naoto, Jeffrey and I (from Axon Art Collective) are currently doing some propositions to have connected objects as controllers to do spacial audio performances and VR content. We’re finishing some beacon / Bluetooth to generative soundscape propositions and for spacial audio as well, using Morrow Sound software and max for live with Ableton and we have events coming up from August to January to present those two types of work in New York, Montreal, and possibly Europe.

We’re also doing some EEG (brainwaves signals to audiovisual) for other propositions. Naoto and I have a residency coming up in Korea in early 2018 for EEG to sound cube content.

Images & Video: Dj Mini

If you want to create your own Projection Mapping project, have a look at the tutorial with the Touch Board or the tutorial with the Pi Cap.

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