Clement Briend's 'Divine Trees': Ghostly projections come to life

By Anjali RaguramanEvents - 24 July 2014 9:00 AM | Updated 25 July 2014

Clement Briend's 'Divine Trees': Ghostly projections come to life

Using the foliage on trees as a canvas, Paris-based French photographer and artist Clement Briend has travelled the world with his larger than life projections called ‘Divine Trees’.

Images of deities from Asian cultures, usually showing them carved into stone facades of temples, are transformed into haunting and enigmatic outdoor art installations made of light, under cover of darkness.

The result is creepy and beautiful, all at once.  Visitors to this year's Singapore Night Festival can experience this installation for themselves when it goes on display from 22 to 30 August. There will be eight images in total, projected on trees surrounding a quiet pathway between the National Museum grounds and the Singapore Management University campus.   


To create the images, Briend uses a nifty mobile projector, perched on a tripod that he can move around and adjust at will. He invented this device, as there was no technology out there that allowed him to achieve such high quality 3D-image projection.

“The right projector didn’t exist,” Briend said in an interview with inSing. “So I made it myself, ring by ring,” he added, referring to the layers of lenses he placed inside the device.

Briend's battery-operated projector is essentially a slide projector and a camera, taken apart and then spliced together

Briend enjoys the freedom his device gives him. “I think it’s a nice way to make street art. I have many projectors with me, so I can make my art all by myself. That’s why I built my projector, to be independent,” he said.

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French artist-photographer Clement Briend. Photo: National Museum of Singapore

During a sneak preview at the National Museum of Singapore on 22 July, Briend took less than five minutes to set up his mobile projector, select an image on a slide, and flash the image of a god from a facade of Bayon temple in Siem Reap on a particularly large and dense, leafy tree, just outside the museum 

First, he selects a tree. His criteria — "the bigger they are the better, because I want them to dominate." He then selects a face according to the shape of the tree. “I need to test this, and I need to move around. Some faces work better than the others. If you find the right figure and the right position, it works,” he explained. 

Using medium-format slides, he ensures that “the picture is very sharp and detailed”. Briend gets the highest quality of images at almost 30 million pixels.

Passing breezes and the rustling of leaves, which makes the faces almost come “alive”, compound the realistic appearance of his projections.


Briend referenced phantasmagorical works from 18th century France, where magic lanterns (the earliest slide projector) would project images such as demons and ghosts onto walls, smoke or semi-opaque screens, as a form of spooky entertainment.

He essentially does the same thing with his mobile projector and a non-traditional canvas. Briend’s work explores the dichotomy between reality and imagination, and he describes it as capturing a “mind projection” that may not exist in reality.

“Our eyes works as a camera — we have a small picture projected on the retina, reversed and in perspective. And when you close your eyes, you don’t see it. From this, we recreate the world and the space in front of your eyes. What you create in front of you, is in yourself. So your brain is like a projector, and your eye is like a camera!” he explained. 


This year’s Singapore Night Festival returns with the theme  ‘Bold and beautiful’. This will be the seventh installment of the festival, which drew almost 500,000 visitors last year. It will be held in the Bugis and Bras Basah district on the weekends of 22 and 23 August, and 29 and 30 August. 

Promising “louder, edgier and wilder performances”, the Festival will have everything from a block party on Armenian street, complete with a wrestling ring, to a larger than life “earth harp” by American musician William Close, which will be an immersive music experience.  This year’s programme also boasts a festival village, complete with food, drink, film screenings, a flea market and roving performers. 

Singapore Night Festival 2014 | Date: 22-23, 29-30 Aug | Time: From 5pm | Venue: Bugis, Bras Basah district