An Interview with Kit Webster

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By Erica Keppel

As we anticipate the 2011 Gertrude Street Projection Festival, we took the chance to get in touch with last year's feature artist - Kit Webster. Kit was of many Artists who entered the 2010 Gertrude Street Projection Festival. Kit was also invited to attend and display his work, on Fitzroy's cute 'lil Gertrude Street.

Working within some seriously different constraints to most Designers, I was interested to know just where an award winning projection artists find's they're inspiration ...

Can you give us a brief bio / background on yourself – what had led you to become involved in last year's projection festival?
A couple of years ago I spent a year in South Korea and had time to research what is happening in the world of new media art, and experiment with some ideas.

When I returned to Melbourne, I started experimenting with projection and digital sculpture and approached Stephen Gallagher from the RMIT School of Art gallery and asked if I could use some downtime at the gallery as a space to set up one of my installations. Stephen saw another prototype I had created and asked if I would like to have a solo show. That allowed me to build my installation 'Dataflux' using the software VVVV, which allows you to create projections that trigger lights and sounds and also link up different types of sensors and the internet.

I filmed the work and put it online and it went viral and ended up on heaps of art and design websites. When I found out about the Gertrude Street Projection Festival, I pestered Kym to let me be involved. I told her I have my own projector that could light up the whole of the Builders Arms pub and she basically said go for it, so I created a work called 'Pub Crawl' that was based on mapping the building features and then projecting programmed images that transformed the building and appeared to make parts of it move. 

Please explain a little about your 2010 Projection Festival entry! What was your inspiration when coming up with the concept and how would you describe the process you took to get there!?
I was invited to be the feature artist for 2010, which was a great honour. The concept came about because I wanted to create a building facade projection that involved images being connected to the internet and controlled via mobile phones, so I pitched the idea of SMS-activated imagery to the Festival panel and they went for it.

The result was a work called 'Textavision', which allowed passers by to use their mobile phones to text any word to a phone number and images associated with that word became emblazoned across the building. It was designed to appear totally spontaneous and haphazard, like some kind of traveling gypsy magic show.The idea was based on the festival theme 'Me You Us', and it allowed people to really get involved. 

What advice would you offer to this year's entrants?
It's not hard to be involved in the festival, but thinking differently always helps.

What were the best and worst aspects about working within the constraints of projection?
The best thing about working with projection is the wow factor. It really blows people away to see things glowing and transforming like that. It also allows me to produce works that kind of merge virtuality with the real environment, a topic which I find fascinating.

The worst was probably on a different project when I was  provided with a dull projector and it took the life out of the work. There's also the danger of being pigeon-holed as 'the projection guy', when my body of work is much broader than projection.  

Are you entering again this year?
Yes, I will be involved in some capacity. I am thinking of going miniature this year, just to create a contrast.

How would you describe a typical day in the life of Kit?
Right now it's involving a lot of negotiations, technical riders, meetings and emails about some overseas festivals to which I've been invited, which is very exciting. My creative brain is chillaxing, sipping on cocktails on some awesome secluded beach. But it's ready to come out and tell reality to step aside!

What other creative projects are you working on at the moment?
I am working with choreographer Antony Hamilton on some projection designs for his Dance Massive production 'Drift', which will be presented in late march. Robin Fox is creating the sound and the audience will be watching from their cars from a secret location.

I'm operating live audio-reactive visuals for the Superdisco party at the Prince of Wales Hotel, and working with Jayson Heibich on various ways of combining virtual, physical and mental states. I'm also looking forward to being a part of the Mapping Festival in Geneva, Switzerland, in May, the Art Rock festival in France in June and Electrofringe in Newcastle in October. 

Thanks so much or your contribution – do you have anything further you would like to mention?
Yes. Australia is an incredible country and I love living here, but it's still a bit hard to get good new ideas off the ground. That's why it's great to connect with people like Antony Hamilton and Kym Ortenburg at the Projection Festival and Stephen at RMIT gallery, who are prepared to take a punt on something different. Keeping a fresh mind can change people's lives.

Jump online to see more of Kit's work and read more about this year's Gertrude Street Projection Festival