Urban Projections performs at Splice Festival - the UK’s only dedicated audiovisual performing arts festival which runs from 26-28 May 2017. http://www.splicefestival.com/

Rebecca Smith (aka Urban Projections) is creating some fabulous work for various settings, and the work is full of creativity, innovation and ingenuity and really worth checking out further and if you are in London do go see her performance at the Splice Festival.
Rebecca kindly took time out of her preparations for her performance at the forthcoming Splice Festival to answer a few questions about her work and forthcoming performance. I am very happy that she answered some questions and for me to now present her answers to the readers of this visual music blog and to get the opportunity for Rebecca herself to give us a fantastic snapshot of Urban Proection's work.

Q. Hi Rebecca, your work with visual projections in different settings is very exciting, can you introduce yourself briefly to the visual music audience of this blog and tell us what you do in your work with urban projections, what excites you about your work and practice and what are you working on right now and for what type of setting?

My name is Rebecca Smith. I’m a new media artist working under the name Urban Projections. My work seeks to discover new, and original ways of presenting digital media for audience interaction. I like to push the boundaries of creative possibility and pioneer new approaches to mixed media application. My work spans installations, large scale architectural works, guerrilla street performance, stage design and interactive environments. Im currently about to Premier my new audio-visual performance at Splice Festival, which will be a return for me to a solo, live show, in front of an audience.

I am struck by a quote on your website where you say, that in terms of your own background, there "seemed a natural progression with the way that technology was moving to start to incorporate audio and visual forms together.” can you tell us a bit more about your background and experience in technology and what led you to incorporating audio and visual forms?

I always had a strong passion for visual art forms, but my early background is predominantly in the audio domain. From leaving school, I worked at a local recording studio, learning the ropes as a studio engineer. This meant assisting on all kinds of sessions from metal bands through to karaoke singers. My real passion was in electronic music though, and especially in DJing out to crowds. I always liked to try and push bits of equipment to do different things. I found a natural progression into turntablism, and for years, immersed myself into the technicalities of scratching; Learning the techniques, patterns, flow, adding in extra pieces of kit for live gigs, such as loop pedals or effects units. This was all strictly on vinyl. I played a little with CDJs as the Pioneer CDJ-1000 was introduced, but i never really liked the feel of it. Then time coded vinyl became a thing. I was performing scratch demos for Stanton, with the introduction of ‘Final Scratch’, so got to really test it out and learn its good and bad points. It wasn’t long until developments in the technology also incorporated the possibility of controlling video files. Thats where it all began to cross over, and there was a natural means for me to incorporate both the audio and visual elements together I moved onto VJamm which then allowed the exploration of audio-visual performance from a software package, and thats when my practice really took a solid direction.

Q. On your website you have divided up your documentation of your works according to different types of projection settings, can you tell us a little bit about the different types of projection settings you work in and how you came to categorise them so efficiently (in my opinion)?

Well I guess I tried to look across my practice and break it down into the things that corner-pin my work. This includes the more traditional aspects such as live visuals, projection mapping, interactive environments and motion design, but also encompasses my love of street art and collaboration with street artists, including; projection murals, digital graffiti and street projection. Its really important to me that my work remains accessible to audiences, and theres no better way than to take your work into the public domain, and out onto the streets.

Q. The style of your visuals are very recognisable to me, they have a particular aesthetic, can you tell us about the style of visuals you create and why you have chosen this approach to the visual.

I have a passion for minimalist geometric form, but quite often the stimulus for my work will come from something very natural, or hand made. I really like this juxtaposition between the two, and enjoy playing with how content can be represented within this aesthetic. Artists such as Bridget Riley and the the op / kinetic art movements are a great influence on me. I like the possibility of tricks of the eye and playing with the audience perception. I think this draws a parallel with many of the delivery methods used within projection mediums, such as video mapping. We often create forced depth, shadow, movement etc onto an object or surface, and seek to trick the viewer into believing what we present.

Q. You are commendable in that you also are involved in skill sharing, do you think this is a way forward to build communities of practitioners in the audio visual projection field? Can you tell us about what your next skill sharing talk is going to be about?

Skill sharing has been a massive part of my own progression in the creative industries and as an artist. I owe a lot to other professionals and peers who have taken the time and patience to chat, teach, commiserate, share and mentor. I think its a really vital way of not only widening the knowledge and skills of others, but also of progressing my own skill base. Its through talking, and providing an open dialogue, that we can push our art form in new directions, and quite often in a way that we would least expect. My next talk is with Splice Festival. 'Beyond the screen’ will discuss my ethos of how taking video work away from the traditional screen format can have beautiful impact.

Q. Do you have a particular method for creating relationships with the audio and music for some of your works and what software and hardware do you use to create these works?

I don’t have a set workflow for creating AV work. Sometimes it begins with the audio, sometimes with the video. The important thing is creating the detail allowing the synchronicity of the two to be apparent. I mostly use After Effects as the main creator of the visual elements, and Logic for the audio. Once I have a very basic framework, I render out and move across to Resolume. I love it, as it acts as a working sketch pad for digital content. Things can be manipulated, effected and mixed really quickly and intuitively, then recorded out. These can then either be refined in After Effects or re-sampled into new clips. The final performance will also be built in Resolume, and use a selection of midi controllers to aid playback.

Q. Can you tell us about the forthcoming work you are performing in the Splice Festival and how you feel about being part of this exciting festival?

I’m really looking forward to performing at Splice. I think it can be quite isolating working as a digital artist, as a large amount of my time involves sitting behind a computer of some sort. Interestingly, I think that a large amount of my audiences have also been generated through a computer, via videos on social media or online. It’s ultimately how mine, and other artists work, gets shared and gains recognition over the years. Thats why festivals such as splice are so great. It gives the opportunity to actually connect with people on the other side of the computers…. To network and talk face to face, and to experience the work first hand. It also has the most amazing line-up and group of organisers, many of which have been influences of mine since starting out.
I’ll be premiering my new AV piece ‘Stratum’, created with long-time collaborator, audio producer Jimmy Power. I’ve always been really geeky about geology, and this piece nods to that inner geek. I recently moved my practice and studio out into the North Nottinghamshire countryside. Its effected me much more than I ever expected. Stratum subsequently explores the influence of the local terrain, and how the environment has been physically sculpted and carved through unnatural means. This arrives at a salient time, with exploratory fracking drills in application under Sherwood Forest, and the closure of Thoresby Colliery, the penultimate deep coal mine to close in the UK.

Q. Do you create works for specific briefs or audiences, how do you get started in creating your urban projections?

Yeah, sometimes my starting point is suggested through a brief or specific output, constraint, technical setup etc. A piece of work can arrive from pretty much any starting point really. The most important thing is to just make stuff! Quite often its easy to get bogged down by technology or technique, and loose sight of the passion for creating it in the first place. Often, when I need some inspiration, I’ll set myself a 60 second challenge to make something fast, with minimal resources… For example a spray can, a circle template and a camera. Some of my nicest pieces have been created this way.

Q. One of your pieces that you have documented on Vimeo - GEOTOPIA is a very audiovisuals stunning piece with equally stunning dance performances with young people, can you tell us a little about this work and your method for creating the piece and what it was like to collaborate with young dancers?

Geotopia was a collaboration piece between a group of young dancers, audio producer Jimmy Power and myself. It was a really interesting process where each element was created completely separately, with only conversations inbetween, to help steer the output. I think this took a lot of trust all round, but created a really fantastic piece. Jimmy created a track with lots of small audio accents and details in, which work really nicely for syncing with projection. I wanted to play with the idea of projection acting as light and dark, to either highlight or hide the dancers. The dance group choreographed the piece themselves mentored by Jasmine Eccles. It gave them a really unique output for their work, and I think really challenged them to think in a different way with their performance.

Q. You have built a street projection bicycle which I think is one of the most fun innovative things I have come across in a long time, can you tell us about this device and do you think you will make more of these or encourage others to follow likewise to create street projections?

The light cycle was a practical solution for being able to take my work out onto the streets in a (relatively) mobile way! lots of other great artists and organisation from around the world are already rocking similar contraptions, and even more are being created as a result. I think we all come from the same community voice that resonates with the sharing of digital art in public spaces….which can only ever be a good thing.

Q. What are your plans for the future, what else would you like to do with Urban Projections?

I always love to collaborate with other artists and makers. It keeps me fresh and opens the door to possible new directions. I’ll always follow my interests and keep doing what makes me passionate, but who knows what that will be next week!


Interview: Maura McDonnell

Answers: Rebecca Smith (aka Urban Projections)

Splice Festival 2017 Teaser