Projection Trials

Until now I’d always assumed I would show my work on a larger scale, as this ties in with the vastness of this particular issue of human trafficking, however, after speaking with Stuart and Sarah I’ve begun looking at alternative sizes to display the video.

My feedback for the Work in Progress show was to look at making the work ‘monumental’ as the pots were in the same formation as the monuments commemorating the five original women who came forward and sued the Japanese government in the early 90’s, so the question was asked: Why didn’t I make the scale of the work ‘monumental’? I thought this could be addressed by making the projection really large, but after trialing a couple of other sizes I’ve found a new language within the work that comes through when it’s projected at a smaller size.

With a smaller projection I felt like the work was a lot more intimate and enclosed. It felt a lot more defined and the quality of the image was a lot better than when it was projected at a larger scale. Additionally I felt that having it smaller revealed more about the work than having it larger, as the audience viewing it would have to make the decision to view it, rather than it being unavoidable due to it’s scale if it were bigger.

Once I’d established how effective the smaller projection was I moved on to working out how I could display it at a smaller scale in a visually pleasing way, because having the projector 30cm away from the wall isn’t practical and disturbs the work too much. I want my viewer to be able to stand in front of the work and not have to look around a projector. In my original plan for the projection I was going to have the projector and media player hidden, as I didn’t want it to become a part of the piece. Hiding the equipment by installing it up high above natural eye level also meant the work could be at a large scale and the line of projection could eliminate the possibility of people’s heads blocking the image when they walk across the room.

With displaying the work on a smaller, more intimate scale I’ve realised I’ll need a solution to the new problems having to have the projector so close to the surface I’m projecting onto. I don’t want the viewer to have to look around something to see the work.

I went and spoke to Ana about these issues and asked if any previous students had worked out a way to project something onto a surface at a really small scale while simultaneously hiding the equipment. She ran through a few options troubleshooting possible problems against what I want the viewer to experience:

  • Do I want people to sit in front of it and watch it like a film?

    No, because the work will be very long I like the idea of people coming back to the piece to see how it’s changed since their last visit. Inviting people to sit down and view the work on a bench/chair feels too directional and I want the viewer to feel like they’re witnessing an event, not watching a film.

  • Do I want it to be low down and small?

    When I first projected the film onto the wall it was on a fairly low surface, initially I didn’t think this would be an issue but as I was watching it the viewing angle felt uncomfortable and wrong. I felt like I was crouching down in an unusual way.

  • So do I want it to be high and difficult to see?

    No, I think somewhere between the two would be better; eye level felt the most natural and the most appropriate as well. It invites the viewer to feel as though they can comfortably look at the film while making sure these encounters don’t last too long. 

  • How does the image quality change as I trial different sizes and how does that make me feel as a viewer?

    When the work was huge I felt it conveyed the vastness of the issue I was researching, however trialing it at a smaller size helped the work speak of different things, of fragility, of ‘smallness’, while also emphasised the silence of the video. These themes relate closely to my work in ways I didn’t expect. 

Ana went on to explain that I could make a slim rectangular plinth, with the projector at one end and a perspex screen coated in projection film installed at the other so the film could be back projected and viewed from the front of the plinth, eliminating the need for the projector to be mounted to a wall, or installed directly in front of the screen/surface I will be projecting onto. I trialed this idea using card as my mock back projection screen to see how close I could get the projector to the screen while maintaining the quality of the film. Obviously this isn’t a back projection set up and I’m seeing it the wrong way around but this helped establish how far away the projector would need to be to achieve the effect I want.

I used a previously built plinth to further test how far away the projector needed to be in order to get a clear, crisp, concentrated image. The typical throw range for this projector is between 1-8metres, however I found I was able to get as close at 20-30cm and still maintain image quality. I moved the makeshift ‘screen’ around a bit to establish what looked best and found the smaller it was the more interesting it became. The piece changed quite dramatically, from being a big unavoidable film covering an entire 8ft high wall, to a suddenly quite beautiful and ethereal piece at a smaller scale. Having the work smaller meant I could manipulate or make my viewer look at it in a different way, in a way that speaks more about the work.

While researching the ‘comfort women’ issue during my time in South Korea I came across a lot of images taken during WWII of Japanese soldiers lining up outside ‘comfort stations’ in occupied territories:


While viewing the exhibition at the Museum of Sexual Slavery in South Korea I noted that most of the images presented for display were shown on a small scale, with masses of text surrounding them. I don’t feel it necessary to include any text with my work apart from the title, however investigating the impact of displaying the work at a similar size to the images in the museum has turned up better questions about the work. Looking back on the images of soldiers lining up to visit ‘comfort stations’ as well as remembering scenes in various films which address the history of ‘comfort women’ I’m reminded of the small windows at eye height with a view into the rooms within ‘comfort stations’ where victims were forced to service soldiers:

I didn’t like the feeling of having the work low down, initially I thought this might work because it speaks of the way women are looked down on within society, but given that the film is being projected onto a flat surface it felt more of a hinderance to look down at it. With this in mind I tried looking at it at eye level, and found it to make me feel a lot more like I was looking at something happening for a fleeting moment – a moment in time where something is being destroyed but I can’t stop looking at it. The soldiers watching ‘comfort women’ being used by their colleagues saw something awful happening and may have watched for a time and moved on. Coming back to that window might have shown them a further degraded version of what they witnessed earlier.

This is what I want to achieve with my final piece, and projecting it at a smaller size at eye height achieves that feeling. The viewer may not be fully aware of what they’re looking at, but if they revisit the film and find the objects more and more degraded/destroyed then their understanding might shift.

Additionally, having the piece displayed at a smaller size means I won’t need to have the lights off in order for it to maintain maximum impact – the above images look dark but they were taken with the lights on, with the camera set in a way that picks up the detail of the bright projection. Having the piece displayed in a brighter environment means I’ve got more options in terms of location.

Next Steps:

  • Begin designing my display system.
  • Speak to Ana about ordering back projection film.
  • Book in with Charlie as soon as possible.

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