American Arts Incubator Opening at KZNSA Gallery. Photo by Niamh Walsh-Vorster.
After running a month-long incubator in Durban, South Africa, I realized that augmented reality is still magic to people who experience it for the first time. During the month of April 2019, I worked with some extraordinary and talented South African artists at KZNSA Gallery located in Glenwood. As the gallery’s marketing suggested, we “took over” the space and had to quickly create four different works of art that dealt with social challenges and used augmented reality. The opening was held on May 2, 2019 to a packed audience.
The hectic pace and spirit of collaboration along with learning a new technology compelled everyone to be hyper-creative and energized. For many of the participants, this was their first foray into augmented reality, and we used the Artivive platform and APP to design the AR experience.
The art projects dealt with some hard-hitting social challenges in South Africa — from lack of clean water in rural communities to drug abuse in the cities. All of the artists incorporated interviews and real-life stories from people affected by these problems which made the artwork relevant and imperative. Some of the video interviews were embedded into the AR, which allowed viewers to understand the inspiration of the work.
One team painted a large mural of an astronaut reaching for the stars. The image represented the hopes and dreams many drug addicts have while going through the recovery process. When the AR is activated, the astronaut floats through the room as the background is transformed into the infinite vastness of space. This beautiful rendition of AR was such a powerful experience that it convinced Durban resident and street artist EWOK Robinson to use it in his murals.
The opening night ended with a spectacular dance performance organized by Portia Ncwane. She was part of the “Nomvula” AR comic book team that showcased their prototype at the Cape Town FanCon Comic Book Convention. The team plans to further develop their work for a big launch in Fall 2019 so stay tuned!
I think the incubator and the use of AR taught the participants and audiences how to add a digital layer that brings their artwork to life. The real and digital world can now co-exist and be experienced at the same time.