In the world of outdoor media projections, particularly in the realm of projection/video mapping, the term “masking” is used to describe a technique for closely tracing an existing facility (typically a building) in order to transform it into a high resolution, uniformly focused screen. Unlike the distance maintained between a cinema screen and a projector, which necessarily remains fixed so that a focused image can be projected across the entire frame, buildings' façades do not obtain a similar equidistant relation to a projector; or more commonly, multiple projectors. The slightest changes between a building's surfaces and the projectors used can create a disjunction, a blur, or a stretch of the image. This becomes especially noticeable in buildings that have abrupt set-backs or are circular in shape. Masking is used to minimize the traces of gaps in, protrusions to, or protractions of the surfaces of buildings in ways that both flatten their differences but at the same time highlight their contours by creating a tighter fit.
The example I have chosen to highlight, produced in 2011 by San Francisco-based company Obscura Digital, projected on the recently built Shiekh Zayed Grand Mosque, offers a glimpse into the ways this 'tightening of fit' is being culturally negotiated. While tightness may seem suitable for the building, the same cannot be said to its visitors. Although anyone is allowed to enter the mosque, strict rules are in place to ensure that only loose outfits are worn on site (rules which were recently broken by two American celebrities—Rihanna and Selena Gomez). If masking of buildings flattens the depths of surfaces by being highly attentive to their every inch, tight fitting clothes and provocative poses are thought to flatten the modesty of people by being too telling of the shapes of their bodies. Masking here, therefore, points to the ways vanity, modesty, profanity, indulgence, fashion, and taste fit in disjointed ways.