“I never know what to expect when I work on the street”
t all started with a tiger running through the streets of Paris at full speed. A projection of a tiger, that is. ‘Golden Tiger’ was one of the first video-mapping animations to hit the streets. “I wanted to confront digital creation with street architecture and prove that the city is alive,” explains French artist Julien Nonnon. He’s still bringing to life cities like Madrid, Orlando and Stockholm with a bunch of animals who dress better than you or I. It’s his own urban safari.
Where do you find inspiration for your creations?
The ‘Urban Safari’ project was inspired by ‘Le Roman de Renart’. In that story, animals make fun of humans for the first time. I wanted to create characters that were part animal, part human, including lots of details that root them in the way we dress and act as a society. For instance, following trends and fashion and how that makes us feel like we belong to a sort of group. I wanted to prove that animals could come to the city, in something like a ‘wild casting process,’ and be part of it.
How do you choose the locations where you project the images?
I scout the best places and take photos of them with my iPhone. I also write down the geolocalization so I know exactly where it is. Other times I think, “This character fits perfectly on this building or that façade.” It’s more a question of inspiration… I try to interact with the urban architecture and even the people.
Since you create your project on the street, you can see people’s live reactions…
I never know what to expect when I work on the street. Every day is a surprise. People often come and talk to me about my creations and a whole bunch of other stuff. Funnily enough, the same thing has been happening ever since we started doing these ephemeral projections. People stop, take a photo with their phone and come over to chat. Exclusive locations, suburbs…. Everyone reacts in the same way, regardless of their age or social class.
Does the project change from city to city?
Absolutely. Each experience is unique. First off, the architecture makes it different. For instance, in Madrid we took part in the PhotoEspaña Festival and projected onto the Royal Botanical Gardens. We couldn’t believe we got that place to ourselves for one night. The experience also depends on the people. During our first night in Orlando, we had about 40 people following us around. Suddenly it started tipping it down and they were really helpful. They gave us an umbrella, helped us cover the gear… Everyone gets super involved in this type of experiences.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I love meeting so many people. I’ve also received loads of gifts. I don’t mean flowers or chocolates… I’m talking about something more special. When we were in Stockholm, an orchestra performed while we projected ‘Urban Safari.’ And they let us project the animals onto the town hall.
Where would you like to project your art?
I would love to do it in New York, maybe even on Wall Street. I also hope to go to London and Berlin soon. It’s a very flexible project, you can do it anywhere. We never ask for authorisation because it’s just light. If I run into problems, I simply switch off the projector. It doesn’t leave a trace, it doesn’t make any noise, it’s doesn’t break anything… It’s more about proposing than imposing.
Julien Nonnon is a self-taught artist. This French creator has a thing for anything image-related: photography, video, animation, graphic design... The combination of several resources created ‘Urban Safari.’ He is also one of the founding members of creative studio Le3.