Anti-mapping manifesto

2017 – Brno (originally posted at

Video-mapping is stagnating in manneristic pose of a few effects which are, moreover, continuously recycled.

Even though video-mapping is by very definition an audio-visual discipline, the sound component is but a minor addition to the visual, rather than its inherent part.

By means of video-mapping new media art was appropriated to wider public. Unfortunately, that was at expanse of freedom of creativity of expression.

Artistic value has been compromised to rigid visual form. Hence, any trace of meaning has vanished and its function was reduced to bare aesthetic, promotional and decoratively additional.

Video-mapping as an artistic form is depleted and settled in commercially comfortable and static position.

It needs to be rebuilt… new and from the basics!

Video-mapping, also referred to as projection mapping or video projection mapping is relatively new (2000s) artistic discipline that marries architectural and spatial elements with moving image, pre-arranged or mixed in real time by means of spatially organised and parcelled projection utilising three dimensional real-live objects as its canvas.

However, it was already in the early days of avant-garde film (1938) when Laszlo Moholy-Nagy published his manifesto of moving image – Vision in Motion. He was perhaps unaware of the fact that to large extent he anticipated and even theoretically outperformed what we know as video-mapping today:

Projection itself is still an unsolved problem. The rectangular screen of our cinema theaters is nothing more than a substitute for easel or flat mural painting. Our conception of space and of the relations of space and light are still absurdly primitive, being restricted to the everyday phenomenon of light rays entering a room through an aperture. It would already be possible to enrich our spatial experience by projecting light on semitransparent screens, planes, nets, trellis-work, suspended behind each other. • It is also possible to replace the present single flat screen by concave or convex sections of differing sizes and shapes which would produce innumerable patterns by continually changing positions like the facets of a prism in motion. Different films could be projected simultaneously on the walls of the cinema•• and astonishing effects might be obtained by simultaneously focussing a number of projectors on gaseous formations, such as smoke clouds, or by the inter-play of multiform luminous cones. Finally, the morphology of light and film will gain by the general installation of three-dimensional projection.

Nonetheless, it wasn’t till late 60s before the term video mapping was first used and Moholy-Nagy’s ideas put in practice… 1969’s Haunted Mansion of Disneyland featured 16mm film projectors mapped on objects that were part of the ride. It took another four decades before video mapping started to be explored as an artistic and expressive medium. Even today, however, many of Moholy-Nagy’s 80 years old idea sound visionary or progressive at least.

The improvement of the film depends on the perfection of colour, three-dimensional projection, and sound; upon simultaneous projection; successions of screens arranged in space and smoke, duplicate and multiple screens; new automatic superimpositions and masking; finally – and mostly – on space-time philoshophy.

The stress on “space-time philosophy” is most adequate here, and it’s what really should distinguish video-mapping from traditionally two-dimensional and screen based video. Contextual awareness in terms of architecture, historicity, and current socio-political situation, together with close connection with sound (tempo and timing) is what really makes a video-mapping a spectacle. But how many such spectacles have You seen? Technological progress enabled VJs and visual artists to showcase amusive HD effects but these rarely have slightest hint of content or concept. Moholy-Nagy again:

Potentially, the field of visual expression has immensely expanded through science and technology but practical application has remained fundamentally unchanged. The new possibilities of expression are dependent for their realization upon a high standard of knowledge of light and electricity. It is therefore imperative that there be an institute of light and colour or institute of electronics – and not in a technological sense alone but in integration with the arts.

It’s amusive to see that we’re basically facing the very challenges that artists faced at the beginnings of cinematography. Whole medium of film, video and inevitably video-mapping is of course tightly connected to screening technology and its development. However, we should never forget that these are just tools that enable us to convey the meanings, the content of what’s being perceived. This used to be very clear some days back, when capturing and reproducing of moving image was just a poor appropriation of reality and it therefore needed to be exaggerated to make the point stand out. Currently, visuals are being boosted for the sake of it. Is the medium the only message we get these days?

Postmodern, post-digital, post-internet, post-truth… you name it! Linear narrative stands as helplessly naive as inability to convey any message at all. However, content or message, should never be confused with story. Whilst these may sometimes stand for the same thing, they may not as well. They better not! The information is what matters the most and the intensity by which it is conveyed has no limits, but the limits of perception. Today, story-telling and narration gets transformed, torn apart and glued together just to be de-collaged, denied and ridiculed. Any way out anyone? Strip message off of all its communication conventions and what you get is pure impression. Overloading and overexposing the viewer surpass the conscious and open the doors to pre-biased subliminal perception. There, personal meanings can be reconstructed. Subconsciously and authentically. Fuck narrative!


Lászlo Moholy-Nagy: Vision in motion, Chicago : P. Theobald, [1947]