Hfour was invited to work with an exhibition designer at the Museum of Anthropology to perform the technical installation and create video content for the new exhibit featuring Portuguese Popular Art. MOA has been using multimedia in exhibition design for over a decade, but this marks the first time projection mapping has been used to enhance exhibited objects.
Within the process of exhibition design, lighting becomes a key emotivator to create mood, presence and understanding about the purpose and materiality of objects. The opportunity to consider projection mapping as a source of lighting, stemmed from my desire to not only paint and manipulate the pixels of light, but also to experiment with the addition of large images, videos and animations. Can one use a single light source to orchestrate so many effects? Does the addition of effects, enhance or distract from the prioritization of the object as a subject. Is the audience more curious about the projection environment than the object, or is their curiosity piqued such that they look deeper? Can one scribe didactic messaging into a projection mapping script to further enhance the viewing experience?
The commitment to the use of projection mapping as a major emotivator was to ask these questions and ponder the responses from the public.
– Skooker B. – Exhibition Designer.
Hfour consulted with the museum at the early stages of technology planning to find an appropriate balance between image quality, budget and conservation requirements. Through the process of research and discovery, it was fortunately determined that the projectors being used emitted no ultraviolet light, and with a little tuning in the video file and bulb settings, could have their brightness settings below the allowable levels.
Hfour worked on six projection sites within the exhibition: 4 large wall projections, and two systems embedded into table tops. Each piece presented its own unique challenges. ‘Heaven’, one quadrant of the exhibition, featured 19th century paintings on dark wood. Faded and difficult to see, Hfour was inspired by the recently refurbished Rothko paintings in the Harvard Museum, and projected digitally enhanced images of the paintings onto the paintings to increase visibility. Along with the visibility comes the theoretical aspects of originality, replica and simulation, which are interesting in themselves.
Another quadrant, ‘Sea’, features performance puppets. Hfour illuminated the objects theatrically using projections, and ‘painted’ in moving highlights to bring the exhibition to life. Throughout the creative and technical process, the discussion of balance between projections and objects played a significant role. How to illuminate an object in a unique way, without distracting the viewer from the object, and fulfilling the intended purposes of the exhibit. It seems that more new questions were raised than answered, but the stage has been set for further exploratory processes.
I firmly believe that the centre of any museum exhibition has to be the original works that convey the curatorial concept. You cannot substitute real objects for text, audio-visuals or simulacra. Neither can you overwhelm objects to decrease their ‘presence’ in order to increase their appeal or educational use. Exhibitions that do so, tend to look boring and unremarkable. The way you have used projection mapping avoids all these dangers and provides a really exciting way of enhancing the presence of collections while giving them context and reintegrating them into wider visual universes. Several visitors have shared with me their amazement that we have kept this delicate balance. Thanks to your work we have created a spectacle that makes our audience look at Portuguese popular art twice and encourages them to find out more about it. This is an integrated design that seamlessly brings together objects and background, while respecting the presence, power and integrity of the precious collections that museums hold.
– Anthony Shelton, Curator