Each week, we will highlight the participants in Digital Graffiti 2017. Join us and learn about these incredible artists from all over the world and what informs their artwork. This week, we’ve got Q&As with Holger Förterer from Karlsruhe, Germany, and Helen Marshall from London, England.

Artist: Holger Förterer
Location: Karlsruhe, Germany
Project title: “fluidum 2”
Website: foerterer.com

How much technology is required to create your work? If you didn’t have it, would you still be able to produce it?
There is a lot of technology involved. I build my installations with specific hardware, and I program my works in the software language C++ using only a few publicly available software libraries, like OpenGL and OpenCV. You could translate it to musical terms: The software I produce is a very complex notation that can be played back by using specific computer hardware as an instrument. Since my works are interactive, the audience’s role is perhaps best described as that of an interpreter or performer,
playing on that instrument.

If I find a technological limitation, which happens very often, I try to overcome it by invention, acquiring new knowledge by reading scientific papers, “fake” a solution or—as a last resort—obtain a library that solves the problem for me. When it comes to the content, I try to stay as independent from other people’s libraries as possible, since I feel that using libraries would somehow limit my own expression in favor of theirs. I understand that the industry works differently.

If I didn’t have computers and computer languages as means of expression, I most probably would have chosen another way of materializing ideas and emotions, presumably nonverbal like visual arts or partly mathematical like music.

What else can you tell us about your work, for example your use of color (or lack of), rhythm, or visual texture?
For a very long time, I did not use color in my work, since I always had the feeling that it never came out right when projected. This was surely caused by projectors that were not strong enough and had dull or washed-out colors due to ambient lighting. But on the other hand, I also lacked the mathematical knowledge and computing power to address this issue.

The real-time graphics community has only lately adapted much of the color management that has been present in the film community for a long time. And I am still learning how to handle strong colors well. Many projectors apply tricks to get more brightness, and colors are still quite far off in many cases. This will hopefully get better soon.

In this specific work, I use the XYZ color space with an extra lightness term. In absence of ambient light, the strong color gamut and contrast can apparently produce an astounding sense of depth for some viewers. The zooming feedback part of the effect and the soft flickering of the fractal may contribute to this as well. Despite this, it’s still a kind of mystery to me, too.

What do you find most remarkable about projected art?
The way it can change the appearance and consistency of solid objects.

How do you see expanding your use of projection for your art?
I am looking forward to laser and really bright HDR projection. Projection has just reached a strength where it can coexist with traditional stage lighting. Resolution and focus are most of the time still a problem. More resolution allows more haptic content since movement can be pictured more delicately. Laser projection opens up the depth of the stage for imagery, since they are sharp everywhere. Higher brightness would allow more plausible environments, at least for naturalistic content like really sunny skies, lightning flashes, small stars, and so forth.

Apart from this, I start to conceive the use of projection techniques from other standpoints. Given a light source, a reflective or translucid surface in the way of the light beam, and a body that catches and reflects this light into your eye, a lot can happen. Think about a moving mirror surface reflecting the sunlight, forming controlled patterns on a building, or candles in front of transparent displays lighting up a room and creating a very archaic form of a computer-assisted virtual environment. So the initial question of artistic projection remains: How do you paint with light?


Artist: Helen Marshall
Location: London, UK
Project title: “Nightfall”
Website: helenmarshall.co.uk

How much technology is required to create your work? If you didn’t have it, how would you produce it?
The technology I used in my submitted work “Nightfall” was a careful consideration of the “organic and analogue” combined with the anarchic approach to new technologies. Instead of following rules and polishing, I did things that you are “not supposed to” and created a surprisingly powerful outcome. This work was actually created from a digital high-resolution flatbed scan (early technology) of a real rubber toy butterfly that I had left to decay outdoors. This created a still “non-lens-based photograph.” I then used Macromedia Flash to animate it and further video editing tools to export it so that it rendered “incorrectly” and appears as an “interlaced moving image,” and this created a jarring and unsettling feeling of impending nightfall and a flying moth. If I didn’t have this technology, I would produce it on many other ways such as stop-frame photography and light and analogue projection. The image is essentially not computer-generated, but using the new technologies and playing with them speeds up the artistic outcome.

What else can you tell us about your work, for example your use of color (or lack of), rhythm or visual texture?
Well, principally I work in still printed images, using algorithms and technology to create digital and photographic murals on a large scale that involve many people and audiences. I help tell people’s stories. This was a breath of fresh air to make, as it came from my own personal story archive and represents to me a time of metamorphosis, change, and becoming.

What do you find most remarkable about projected art?
It is totally live and can be seen in the dark and at night! It is for a large audience and has a simplicity that exceeds other platforms. It encourages the artist to work with the “essence” of their intention and communicates with its audience directly and on a massive scale.

How do you see expanding your use of projection for your art?
I would like to work toward projecting and animating one of my huge photo mosaic murals next that contain thousands of individual photos.