Scott Billings’ artistic practice is marked by a material ingenuity. An engineer and industrial designer as well as a visual artist, it’s clear that for Billings, these concerns exist symbiotically. Creating sculptures and video installations that centre around issues of animality, mobility and spectatorship, Billings often makes use of industrial techniques – in the past he’s employed rare earth magnets, laser pointers, IMAX film, and custom circuitry. For his Façade 2017 project, Billings will use 3D scanning and printing to create a scale model of the Vancouver Art Gallery, then record it being physically damaged and manipulated. Projecting this back onto the enormous structure will create an illusory material experiment on a monumental scale. 

Burrard Arts Foundation: Can you tell us a bit about your artistic practice and background?

Scott Billings: I work in video installation and sculpture. I am interested in the animal quality of things. My work often involves the construction of machines that mimic the movement inherent in the subject of the work.

Still from A Risky Jump, a 2015 video installation

BAF: Describe your project for Façade Fest 2017.

SB: I created a 3D printed replica of the north façade of the Vancouver Art Gallery out of thin, transparent plastic, approximately 18 inches wide. I then video recorded physical manipulations of the model, like squirting viscous fluid on it and drilling holes through it. I’m interested in the ways in which a scale shift–from the handheld to the architectural–can affect cues of perception, not through digital trickery, but through the behaviour of actual physical material; something akin to pre-CG special effects in cinema.

BAF: Have you ever worked in video art or projection mapping before? To what extent was working with this technology a new experience for you?

SB: In a sense, yes. I make a lot of moving projections in gallery installations where I map, or rather, transpose one space onto another. I often create a camera rig that captures a particular motion in a space, and then reconfigure that rig into a projector to literally inscribe that same motion within the gallery. Mapping onto the façade of a building and working with projection outside instead of inside a gallery on the gallery walls is a new experience.

The Indefatigable Bug, 2008

BAF: Is your Façade idea an entirely new project or are you further developing existing themes?

SB: This is a new work. There are some themes I am readdressing from a residency I did in Prague in which I gained access to the underground sewage tunnels. Working with 3D prints and scale shifts has been a recent focus.

BAF: Your work will be projected over the entire façade of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Have you ever worked in such a large scale before? What has been exciting, and challenging, about the process?

SB: No, I have never worked this large before. Its challenging having to visualize in advance how the piece will look when projected large on the actual façade. Conditions like ambient lighting, the intensity of the projection, and the variance on the surface of the facade may affect the quality of the intended illusions. Generally, it is challenging not being able to test out the final piece at the final scale and tweak it before its public presentation. Seeing the piece for the first time myself alongside the general public is a bit unnerving!

See Scott Billing’s projection mapped artwork in Façade Festival 2017 – it will be shown from 7:30PM to Midnight on Wednesday, September 6th, as well as in the encore presentations on September 9th and 10th.