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Small projection that's big on content
HAVING a chef cook up a meal on the spot, by your table, is not new. The novelty is when the chef is a recorded animation projected onto the table, cooking a virtual meal for you.
Skullmapping's Le Petit Chef (The Little Chef) took the virtual reality and culinary world by storm in 2015, when animation footage was projected onto a "live" setting. In this case, four diners sit around a table and the "chef" barbecues steaks and makes bouillabaisse for them at the table like a holographic 3D experience.
Skullmapping is an artistic collective founded by Filip Sterckx and Antoon Verbeeck in Belgium. Sterckx is an award-winning filmmaker and visual artist, and Verbeeck is a fine arts painter who runs his own gallery.
"I started to be fascinated with taking animation film out of the traditional 2D screen, which resulted in projecting on sculptures and presenting them as art installations, and also VJ-ing to music or dance performances," says Sterckx, about the time he was studying animation film in art school and worked with old 8mm projectors.
Verbeeck, on the other hand, ran his fine art studio out of an old "anatomical theatre" - where medical students used to cut open dead bodies for research. The duo's first project was in 2010, when Sterckx made a sculpture with a projection of a man who opens up his own body to show his inner workings to the audience at Verbeeck's studio. "In the beginning, we did some big projections on buildings, but got bored of it after some time. The visual language you need to use for massive projections for a big audience, is often quite bombastic, and we felt more compelled to create smaller projections, for a limited audience, since this allows us to create more poetic and artistic projects," relates Sterckx.
What sets Le Petit Chef apart from other projection mapping projects is first of all the scale. "We went the opposite direction from others, made our projection smaller. Secondly, I think why people like our Petite Chef videos so much is the storytelling," he says. "A lot of mappings are visual spectacles, where they change in an instance from one scene to the next. Often when I see these spectacles, I'm missing cohesion, they feel like a visual show-off to me. What we do is much closer related to traditional animation film, but presented in a new way."
The duo decided to bank on content as they believe that it's the key to keep an audience engaged. Sterckx points out: "(New) Technology is great to draw people in, but once you have their initial attention, you need strong content to keep them interested. We found out during these past years, that good content in which you can recognise the artists' voice, gives the work a much longer life span."
He cites Pixar's Toy Story made in 1995. "Even if it looks quite outdated today if you compare it to the latest state of the art animation films, it's still a great film because of the great story and its characters."
Last year, Skullmapping was a part of a new exhibition in London featuring artists working in Virtual Reality. Inspiration usually comes from the place where they project a work, Sterckx notes. "Creating a projection for a table is a completely different starting point to creating an animation that will be projected on a medieval building in the centre of a city. So for us it is very important to be inspired by the projection surface and its surroundings."
The work that Skullmapping does straddles between art and entertainment, that a wide audience can appreciate, and it's not something which the duo is apologetic about. "Honestly, we don't care too much about having an impact on the contemporary art world. To us, it often feels like an elitist environment, in which who you know is almost more important than the work you make.
"We like to have an impact on people, people who don't necessarily have a connection to the art world, and bring them a moment of magic or wonder."
- Le Petit Chef will be exhibited at Art Apart Fair, Jan 7-11, at Pan Pacific Orchard, 10 Claymore Road. Open daily from 11.30am to 9.30pm, a ticket price of S$10 applies. More details at www.artapartfair.com