Live projection from your head, as photographed in Vancouver by Da Pang Ro. (Amazing project, by the way, so anyone have any other details?)

We’ve been blogging mobile projection and projection mapping and projection on buildings pretty endlessly. But here’s an interesting question — just how “guerrilla” can you get before your projector gets you in trouble? A reader asks about a project in New Jersey on buildings he doesn’t own, apparently without permission. At what point can the building make you stop — when the light gets in their eyes? What sorts of efforts have been necessary, projectionists, for you to get permission? What logistical issues have you encountered, as far as placement, distance, and power?

If visualists are to take over the world’s architecture, we’d better have a plan. Open thread begins … now.

  • Andrew

    A Toronto company has been paying businesses to allow for mobile projection onto their buildings during certain hours.
    The projectors are mounted on top of cars that are positioned across the street. Unfortunately, there's never anyone around for me to ask, but there is definitely a conception of property and ownership when it comes to private property and projection.

    Interestingly, I haven't seen the same for public space, such as sidewalks and similar.

  • davide allume

    I was trying to make put some threads all together some weeks ago on vjforums.

    Then I couldn't end to finish the budget.
    But then maybe your post is going to push me till the end (by the way: generators are cheaper in the U.S…)

  • davide allume

    I'd actually be satisfied to beaming buildings from a car / motorcycle.
    this guy from mexico amazed me sometime ago

  • Scott

    I'm so glad you've brought up this subject, Peter. It's something I need to look into more for study next year, so I'm really interested to hear about other people's experiences.

    I went to a talk for the TINA festival in Newcastle by Suburban Giants that briefly touched on the issue: they needed permits from the council for their projection work which was taken around Adelaide on the back of a bike. As far as I know, they only projected onto government buildings though, as part of an arts festival.

    As an aside, here in Sydney we're coming up quickly to the festival season. Sydney is pretty renowned for having draconian laws when it comes to art in public space, however for some of these festivals, it seems that the city council has been willing to 'overlook' many regulations for the sake of allowing artists to create within public spaces. It all seems to be in an effort to come across as being more cultured, like our Melbourne cousins.

    No doubt, there is a lot of 'design by committee' going on for those artists taking part in these works, but at least it's a step in the right direction.

  • Grant

    I've been projecting on buildings for 7 years and only a couple of times have I been asked to stop. Once in Milwaukee on the stadium when a basketball game was getting out and once in Reno on a Casino. Casinos where ever you go are generally off limits.
    I did a lot of research trying to find laws that prevent one from projecting on a buildings. Some states in the US won't allow you to project a moving image on a building that is viewable from a highway. Calf. it can't update more than 1 frame every 3 sec. Nevada has full motion view playing on the LED screens along hwy 15.
    I've never heard of anyone getting arrested and I believe its in everyone's best interest to just power down and leave when asked.
    We don't want to give anyone reason to feel they need a law preventing this.

  • heikki r

    For our Guerrilla VJ Unit (a van with two dynamos [or whatcha call these thingies that charge the car batteries], one for the van and another for bigger batteries running the beamers), we had to declare to the police the driven route and got a recommendation to not go to the centre of the city.

    This happened in Helsinki, Finland in conjuntion to us participating on a festival focused on street/youth culture.
    Apart from this, we've never been had to face this.

    Still, what struck me as kind of prejudice, or a preset mindframe or whatever, was that at the same time the national broadcasting company (with whatever other parties involved) was allowed to temporarily to put up a rather big and bright (like 100 to 1 compared to our light power) led screen in the middle of the busiest downdown crossing to promote the European singing contest and blaze out colorful motion graphics on it night and day.

    The notice we got from the police said that us beaming out of our van creates a danger scenario where the car drivers as well as the pedestrians too are 'hypnotized'.

    As a side notion just the general light coming from the beamers (in the car) was considered to possiblly momentarily blind people. Unlike the headlights of our van or other cars.

    Same as with anything yet unexperienced this just seems to be a transition phase into a society where this'll turn into an everyday experience rather than the novelty it still seems to be.

    Well, i guess that any recent film set in the near future illustrates, and thus possibly also makes it more probable too, the use of moving imagery in public space. To an excess to underline media power or this or that.

    2penny documentation of these activities if bored at work:

  • http://www.tweakingknobs Tweaking Knobs

    we gotta fight the power !

  • detronik

    Here in the streets of Detroit things can be perceived quite differently at night. Detroit’s streets can be very volatile and my concern is not impairing drivers perception but keeping a watch out for overzealous authorities, police gang squad, homeland security, and possible carjackers. Detroit has been in quite a turbulent state, so much of my imagery is relative to social identity. I have been doing what I call Vision Assaults for some time now. I equipped my ford escape with a fairly high lumen LCD beamer and a high wattage inverter so as to mobilize the projection. I have no plate on the vehicle but opted for a temporary plate in the window so nobody can get my plate easily. I have one window masked off so I can start my projector, warm it up, then when the time and place is in range, I open the window to launch the image upon the target. It has been most effective, however I have had quite a few close calls including two police pursuits and a few street chases from unfavorable opportunists.

  • Riley

    I got stopped and interrogated by the police, not for the projections, but because they saw the glow of the laptop screens on our face. They thought we were looking at child porn on open wifi.

  • Eloi Maduell

    Really interesting questions …

    Here in Spain we've been doing "visual attacks" as we call it from 2005 and never got a serious problem. In fact one of our motivation to do so was to know which law could be applied to us in this cases. What we get to know is [as some others mentioned above] :

    - if it's close to a driven way, it could distract drivers and cause accidents. if by bad luck something tragic happens they could come to you.
    - if you're projecting into someone else building, just the owners of the building could call the police for it. In Barcelona it's understood somehow as painting a graffiti on the wall [even you leave no trace] it's kind of a using private property without permission. But usually you always need to have a denunce from the building owner.
    - in Barcelona dynamic publicity is still not permitted, so that's why many LED-ed building can't show they visual games …
    - we always work as a guerrilla and we always plan who is going to talk to the police, who's gonna hide the latptop and run away … etc . We love to do it fast and hard … We don't want to play visuals on street, but use video projections to communicate, shout and talk about what's not on TV …

    Here some examples of our works :

    // Transgenick Attack
    >Talking about risks of GMO projected on the walls of supermarkets. All materials recorded inside the supermarkets the day before.

    // La Valla Transfuga
    > Reusing an advertisment poster which was forgoten one side of a road. We give live again to this with a full day of audiovisual poetry, all made in-site.

    // Rehabilitació
    > Talking about the urbanistic speculation [big sport in Spain] and the mooving which old people is pushed out of their houses to make new buildings. Created by Sala/v school.

    // Stop the War on Gaza
    Reports of massive demonstrations on the streets of Barcelona to shout : Stop War on Gaza. Later 2008.

    // This Crisis is not ours
    Demonstration on Barcelona streets to shout against the created financial crisis … The crisis is for banks and the system, not for people …

    We always use some kind of mobile [supermarket kart, or bike+kart to transport stuff] and we get power from generators.

  • Andrew
  • Fashion Minute

    Renegade projections in public are themselves are interesting however, what happens when the content of the projections are questionable? I'm thinking that projected advertising has the potential to be be annoyingly pervasive in this case. For artists however, what a fantastic way for to create momentary 'happenings'.

  • Kat Black

    We've been projecting outdoors, both guerrilla and official (eg for Festivals and Community Events run by local government) for several years.

    We are always responsible and consider safety, and generally we get left alone both by the police and security guards. I guess that's because we are never projecting anything offensive or very commercial (eg we have been asked to project advertisements and business logos by Ad Agencies and we've refused).

    We did some mobile projection from our car at about 2am one night, and we got pulled over by the police. We were worried they would book me for "dangerous driving" or something – but all they wanted to do was check my licence in case I was a thief, because we were "driving slowly and shining a light into buildings" lol!

    Videos and pics:

  • Jasper

    We never project moving images beside main roads as we don't want to be responsible for accidents. Recently, some advertisements were projected beside main roads in our city – guess what they were? The government's Road Safety authority projecting anti-drink-driving advertisements. How ironic. I don't know if they caused any accidents….

  • deepvisual

    you need planning permission to project outdoors in London.

    That's if they can catch you, that is. I never bothered, cops usually dont care as long as you move on. its the security guards who can be trouble….

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  • Vzookat

    As far as we can establish in AU, it's against local govt regs to project advertising without planning permission (considering you can't even put a sign on a building you own without planning permission, that makes sense); and also if you use a generator, the noise level and/or presence of petrol can be against local govt regs too. Also, if you're using a car it has to be legally parked, and if using a mobile rig, it cannot obstruct a footpath.

    These rules are only enforced by local-govt rangers though, not the police. And they rarely work at night :)

    If you're trespassing, then security guards and police would be an issue, so we stick to public spaces.

    Since we've started doing paid outdoor projection for local-govts at community events, it's been very helpful to talk to them about all the possible by-laws that might be relevant. And how best to avoid some overzealous local-govt ranger who's looking for an excuse to book you.

  • Agent Scott

    Surprised i'm the first from Graffiti Research Lab to chime in on this…

    GRL has been doing public projection worldwide for a few years now.
    In my experience in Canada, we have gone official and unofficial, but have never had a problem that a promise to 'move on' hasn't solved.

    We are aided by the obscure fact that in Canada, the surface of a building is technically public property!

  • Artis

    In holland we have similar rules we did some reseach about this.
    But good info is hard to find because the technique is so new
    One thing is for certain if you for instance display a feature film / or documetary you risk a big fine. Since a public viewing of a movie requires a theatre licence.
    And that's not so easy to get.

    1. you can't project near a highway you could distract people in traffic.
    2. you basicly can't project on a public building without permission.
    3. If you get caught you probebly don't get fined but they will ask you to stop.
    4. You content must be non commercial and non political / religios.
    5. Don't use lasers for calibration lasers are forbiden in Holland.

    Hope this adds to the common knowlage :)

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  • Chris

    A little late to the thread but hello to all.

    Been doing it now for quite some time. From my experience the biggest concern to law enforcement is where your vehicle is parked at during the projections. I have found that there isn't really any laws in most city's against projection video advertising. The main issues I had were using public parking spots, and of course being on someone's private property to get access to their freshly painted white wall.

    If I were on private property then I would ask the building manager or owner for permission. A couple of times in downtown Orlando FL I was asked to leave because we were not supposed to be sitting in a vehicle in a public parking spot. Where I started out in Louisville KY nobody cared at all, I could park on sidewalks, and basically with respect to traffic areas I could get away with a lot more. I figured out real quick that certain city's respect the art, or the innovative value of what is going on and they either embrace it or shun you away.

    One time I was on a 4 story parking garage blasting videos onto a building knowing that it could all be seen from the highway, it was the biggest creative VJ type projections I had done at the time. What I didn't know was the fact I was on a bank parking garage and projecting onto the back of the largest bank in town. So it's a good idea to fully research where you plan on having fun with this stuff. Yes security guards are a pain.

    This journey has been great fun for me, and hopefully others will take up the art and keep pushing the boundaries. -Guerrilla Chris