By Abby Margulies
For the uninitiated, projection mapping is a process that essentially turns anything into a platform for video mapping; a skyscraper becomes a virtual ad, a pool table becomes the platform for a dazzling light show. Using technology, unusual surfaces become the display for video mapping, often at a very large scale. In the fall of 2016 technology enthusiasts around the world became enthralled by a massive video wall installation at Salesforce, which at 108 feet long became the longest continuous 4mm LED screen in the United States. The video wall aimed to capture the natural beauty of California, with scenes from California’s towering redwood forest to a massive cascading waterfall, transforming the building’s lobby and garnering more views on YouTube than any previous experiential marketing video.
For Nick Lynch, who counts the Salesforce wall among his many successful projects, projection mapping is much more – it represents just the beginning of a tool that will let him transform the way we are able to create and experience art. Lynch, who will be designing immersive technology environments and his own showroom for If So, What’s first event in April, has worked at Obscura Digital for the last 11 years, a creative studio that uses cutting edge technology to create immersive experiences for major companies, artists, and events. He has worked on projects around the world, from an immersive installation at the Venice Biennale for Chinese artist Zheng Chongbin, to a major video mapping project on a mosque in Abu Dhabi that covered the entire building in an ethereal display, blanketing it variously in flowers growing up the side of the building and ornate Moroccan-style patterning
After working on projects like these – ones that were driven by a creative vision rather than advertising campaigns – Lynch became intrigued by the idea of focusing entirely on art and design-driven projects. This year, Lynch branched out, and began his own experiential marketing business -- LYNCHINI -- focusing on bridging fine art, technology, and design, under the larger umbrella of Obscura. Using augmented reality, virtual reality, and camera tracking, Lynch creates pioneering works that push the envelope on the way technology can be used to expand the possibilities for art.
Lynch identified a need that appealed to his creative interest as well. “I think there is so much focus on technology in the [Bay] area and often times, whether people are in their homes or in their workplace, they want to showcase something unique and relevant,” said Lynch. “I’m very passionate about finding a way to deliver these experiences to people that is not frivolous but is something that lasts… a fine art piece never goes out of fashion. A Bill Viola video from the 70s will always be relevant.”
If So, What? mirrors Lynch’s motivation for what he is creating within his own new venture and provides the perfect opportunity to expand upon his experiences. He sees the event as filling a need that others may not yet have realized existed.
“Sho-Joung [Kim-Wechsler] found this obvious gap in the market in Silicon Valley where you have some of the greatest wealth in the world and nothing going on in terms of a fine art scene,” said Lynch. “It just made complete sense to me that it’s a great idea.”
The unique format of If So, What?’s event has inspired a number of ideas, some of which are already in the works. Lynch is planning to collaborate with Zheng Chongbin who, before he began creating digital works, was a well-known traditional Chinese landscape painter. In the spirit of the event, Lynch is considering bridging art and technology, showing Chongbin’s paintings alongside his digital work, highlighting the multifaceted nature of Chongbin’s practice.
Lynch is also planning to showcase works by artist Harvey Moon who, using Artificial Intelligence, created a robot that can draw and determine subject matter based on algorithms programmed by Moon. The robot can be fed images and will draw its interpretation of that image, reflecting a collaboration between technology and a human artist. According to Lynch, the works can be created at a large scale, offering an experience that is both performative and dynamic for visitors.
Like his work with the Salesforce video wall, Lynch is motivated by the desire to connect people with art, design, and technology in new and unexpected ways, and to provide a counterpoint to all of the content on the screens that we engage with in our everyday lives. “The simplicity of a waterfall or a Redwood forest makes people feel great. I think people are starved for beauty in the world when there’s technology involved,” says Lynch. “I want my experiential agency to bring more beauty to the world.”