Let there be projection mapping

December 2016 ended on an experimental, creative and beautiful note with the projection mapping installation by Maker in Residence Krisjanis Rijnieks. This residency is part of the Creative Museum project training initiative for both Makers and museums. A traditional artist in residence programme tends to allocate a space for an artist to respond to a collection and/or develop their own work while supported by an organisation. This residency, however, explored how museums and Makers can collaborate and co-create work in response to museum collections.

From the very outset, both the museum (i.e. me) and Krisjanis entered a dialogue to discuss ideas around projection mapping in the Chester Beatty Library. Why this media? I thought from the outset, it was the most straightforward digital tool for a small museum. In reality, this relatively new technology is far more sophisticated and complex than realised and yes, I learnt a lot from this 12 day residency. Krisjanis also discovered how tiny the sector is in Ireland with a limited supply of high powered projectors. It took weeks to contact suppliers and source a 20k ANSI projector in Dublin – no mean feat and not cheap. We were incredibly fortunate to source a free projector by a very kind neighbour in the area.

So what did we do and how did the process evolve? I saw a link in December 2015 highlighting the Vatican’s projection of endangered animals and thought if the Vatican can do this, why not us? A call was made for Makers in our partner countries to apply for a residency in early 2016; Helsinki, Dublin; Bordeaux, Trondheim; Zagreb and Derby.  The selection process was managed by Don Undeen of Boom High Five and Georgetown University Maker Hub. We selected Krisjanis based on his response to our call and subsequently met him in Helsinki prior to our Creative Museum project meeting and public dissemination event in June 2016. Krisjanis followed up with a visit to Dublin in July for exploratory work.

This proved very fruitful as Krisjanis developed a better understanding of the Library space, collections and decided, having spent a week in discussion with staff, as well as observe the Library’s Teen Club visit to Dublin Maker, to develop an installation in the atrium. In the lead-up to his arrival in December this original plan went through a number of changes and I quickly realised it is vital for the following to happen

  • Keep an open dialogue, i.e. communication is vital throughout the process be it Skype, phone, email or text
  • Expect the unexpected as the creative process is not linear and plans change, all the time
  • Don’t lose heart if the original plan does not stick – there is always another good plan around the corner
  • View creative collaborations as an adventure and a learning process
  • Mutual trust and understanding are both important throughout

We met in the mornings during the residency over coffee and mapped out each day. Krisjanis had access to our online image database as well as use of our Reference Library where he could develop his ideas. He also had access to staff including our Digital Curator if and when he had queries regarding the collections. Through our local networks we acquired a studio space with the Festival of Curiosity in the Chocolate Factory for Krisjanis after closing time in the Library. This provided both the Library and Krisjanis the opportunity to share insights of the residency and introduce local creatives to the Creative Museum project and projection mapping. During this residency, Krisjanis provided projection mapping workshops for teens, adults and local makers in TOG Dublin Hackerspace ; we organised a meeting with Bridge21, education through technology in Trinity College Dublin. It was important to embed a legacy of learning for both the Maker and museum.

As for the projection mapping installation? Krisjanis created an incredible piece of work using both is digital technology skills and understanding of our space and collection. And the Library? I consider this work as one of the finest I have seen in a long time and this is a first for an Irish museum to co-create an installation based on a collection.