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  • Writer's pictureHannah Goodsell

Frida Kahlo: Vivid and Breathtaking

Frida Kahlo. Known for her self portraits of gripping pain and internal struggle, her story has often been simplified focusing on one life event. A person is not defined by a singular moment of their existence. A person writes their story with sentences of bubbling emotions, developing their ideologies, memories of success and struggle, and many more details to craft life's chapters.

Immersive Frida Kahlo shares her origin chapters and how she defines herself through an audio-visual narrative that cannot be silenced. Lighthouse Immersive grounds audience members in what they can expect by leading them through a simple hallway exhibit and open the curtain, quite literally, engulfing them in Kahlo's story painted on the walls.

Frida Kahlo's dynamic relationship with Mexico is felt through the warm colors of her paintings, but is also heard in the calls for revolution. She claims that she was born not in 1907, as recorded, but in 1910 during the Mexican Revolution where she witnessed flames of violence just outside her childhood window looking out into Mexico City. Her work captures her complex emotions and relationships in her personal, community, and familial connections.

The music and animation design recognizes as well as emphasize's Kahlo's tenacity and beauty to share a gripping narrative. This discipline combination composes her story into a stunning sensory orchestra. From dark forest scapes filled of her deer self portraits with soft, thoughtful orchestral music to booming explosions of armed disputes in the city streets set to the shouts of revolution, Frida Kahlo's life blossoms in the deepest corners of her mind and is projected in full volume for audience members to take in. I sat in amazement, not just from a technical stand point, but also touched through such a strong, human connection.

For those of you interested in more of the technical design of this experience, I can provide some limited insight. The designer's used projection mapping to connect the animation transitions from wall panel to wall panel, and even onto the floor. In the photo gallery below, there's a picture of the projector system from the Boston location.

Yes, I was awestruck by this artistry from both Kahlo and Lighthouse Immersive.

Yes, I still took time to figure out how they achieved it. I'm a nerd for this type of stuff.

Back to the main discussion: projection mapping. From my introductory knowledge of how this works, each projector is aimed at a specific wall panel to fit the exact dimensions. There also are some projectors aimed at the floor to indicate seating areas, but there is one scene where flowers grow from the walls onto the floor. That means there's probably a few of the floor projectors configured to those locations, or my other thought is that they could be programmed to sift their positions. With this technique, images can be projected onto both 2D and 3D objects to make them a more immersive experience design. It's been commonly used for advertisements, theater, and concerts for example. It's a really simple method- in theory. What makes this experience so mind blowing is the clean execution of both animation movement and transition from one scene to the next. These transitions do not occur on just one wall panel, or even the walls for that matter. I would love to be able to speak with the designers to understand just how long their experience prototype testing and location set up takes. Or if they used a different technique than I had originally thought.

Definitely going to try to see their other experience before it leaves Boston!

If you want a slightly more in depth explanation of projection mapping, I found this resource, A History of Projection Mapping, to be pretty useful just to familiarize myself a bit more. This website also cited the references they pulled from, if you want to read more on the topic. In addition to the timeline, they made video with different examples of how projection mapping is used in media and culture.

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