project image
Alex May

first performed on April 26, 2013
Tate Modern, London, England
performed once in 2013


Brighton, UK


“Painting With Light” at Tate Modern was a 75-minute, site-specific live video mapping performance that took place in the South Tank. The core theme of the piece is self-perception and how it is reflected in the natural, urban, media and digital realms.

The performance is a gradually evolving, digitally-augmented dynamic physical sculpture. It begins with a natural scene that is gradually invaded by diggers and construction vehicles. Concrete foundations are laid and a city rises out of the ground. Advertising and media delivery apparatus appear and begin to subvert the structure of the buildings, until the dwellers are no longer aware of the reassertion of the natural domain. Ants take over the structures, which crumble and fall into flame.

The narrative of the performance was played out by the adding, removing and arranging of simple physical objects (bed sheets and cardboard boxes) that were completely transformed by having video projected onto them. Traditionally, a video projector will only display a single video signal, but, by controlling the input with software, multiple independent video clips can be played simultaneously and the resulting video output digitally positioned to exactly match the corners and edges of physical objects. Sheets held up by tripod lighting stands became distant mountains and stacks of boxes became skyscrapers, complete with window lights turning on and off and TV sets with eyes inside frantically staring back out at the audience.

To achieve this technical feat, one would normally need to spend a great deal of time preparing the performance, placing the objects in predetermined positions on stage and queuing up the video, perhaps on several projectors and video sources. However, this performance was achieved using just a single video projector, a laptop and no prepared placement.

I have been working with video mapping since 2007 and developing my own software to make the process more accessible and dynamic to the point where it can be used in a live performance context. Video mapping is usually considered a highly specialized technical skill, often requiring costly equipment. While I am primarily developing this software for my own artistic practice, I have made it available for download at, as I hope to put video mapping into the hands of artists, performers and anyone who wants to experiment with this fascinating medium.

The performance was commissioned by Melissa Matos of Trusst for the opening night of the #HYPERLINK festival.