Optical Animal is a Brooklyn based digital arts collective, directing and producing works of new media, cinema, video art, and audio. Their series Projection Napping is an ongoing site-specific video installation project that started in 2016. A play on the term “projection mapping” (the process of projecting and aligning content onto an irregular surface), the series features footage of sleeping people, projected at massive scale and seemingly nestled neatly into the architecture of urban buildings. Past exhibits have occurred in New York City, Berlin, and Rome.
In Times Square, a new, site-specific iteration of Projection Napping (2020) offers a shared moment of respite in a city that has long prided itself on “never sleeping.” Amidst the backdrop of the city, a cast of New Yorkers snooze soundly or struggle to find comfortable positions, their bodies curled into the corners of the video frame as if they live within the confines of each space.
Optical Animal has created a special multi-channel version of Projection Napping for the particular dimensions of each of the digital displays that participate in the Midnight Moment program. These intimate portraits appear larger than life on the electronic billboards, juxtaposing private experiences with public exhibition, and suggesting hidden moments within the buildings behind the screens.
The creation of the piece was interrupted by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with the lockdown in NYC forcing the production to be put on hold mid-way. Some of the initial concepts and strategies for how to film the rest of the piece needed to be rethought and redesigned in order to safely adhere to the new normal of production in NYC.
“The concept for Projection Napping grew out of a desire to locate a more human, and more interpersonal realm for the medium of projection mapping. Building off of a play on words, the project dives into an exploration of sleep, and the line we draw between private and public space. The piece also takes on new meaning in light of the changes happening in society as a result of the pandemic — attesting to our common experience and holding a light to the curative power of stillness and rest. We invite the audience to contemplate sleep as a universal, basic need shared by all living creatures, and to celebrate the pure joy that is, and always will be, taking a nap.”
Optical Animal is a Brooklyn based digital arts collective founded by creative duo JR Skola and Max Nova. Since 2008, they have found a home in creating unique experiences that employ new ideas and technology, while remaining firmly rooted in the ancient human love for storytelling. Optical Animal has presented video and projection art at events and festivals around the world including Mutek IMG in Montreal, Art Basel in Miami, Adelaide Festival in Australia, NXNW in Toronto, and the Westbeth Gallery in New York City. Work by Optical Animal has been commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art, the New World Symphony, Microsoft, Intel, Sony, Calvin Klein, Christian Louboutin, and the New York Times, among others.
Named after a vision his father had in a sweat lodge, Max Coyote Nova has been telling stories since childhood. In addition to creating both narrative and abstract video artwork, Nova composes and performs classical piano music and dabbles in quantum physics as a hobby. Nova is also professor of “Live Video Performance Art” at New York University.
JR Skola’s take on filmmaking as an outlet for design and composition is what led him to the world of experimental cinema, and the subsequent co-founding of Optical Animal. These days he is occupied largely by the exploration of analog materials and processes, their relation to a spirit of simplification, and their relevance in the ongoing evolution of AI and interactive technology.