Technologically living art at WAM

The Wits Art Museum (WAM) is bringing the museums’ vast collection of African art into the 21st century in an interactive exhibition using technology, digital art, music and social media.

Activate/Captivate, on until 7 February 2016, showcases Wits University’s rich art collection in an innovative manner befitting these iconic and influential works.

Students from various departments, as well as academics and artists, were tasked with figuring out creative ways of “activating” the works in the WAM collection.

The resulting exhibition reveals the success of collections-based learning in universities and the exciting ways in which the WAM collection can be employed to implement such projects.

Take for example, Dumile Feni’s 157-metre-long scroll, You wouldn’t know God if he spat in your eye. This striking artwork is displayed using an interactive digital installation, created by lecturer and interactive artist Tegan Bristow in collaboration with photographer Mark Lewis. The interactive installation allows visitors to experience this work in a new and illuminating way.

The display is accompanied by a music score written specially for Activate/Captivate by Wits Music Department post-graduate student Yonela Mnana. Mnana, who is blind, is currently working towards his Master’s in music and teaches music on a part-time basis.

Wits digital arts students have found ways to make some of the masks in the WAM collection come to life, using interactive digital installations. Similarly, Wits School of Arts printmaking students have created prints inspired by the work of Bongi Dhlomo, William Kentridge and Robert Hodgins.

Visitors to the exhibition will also have the opportunity to observe the creative process in action as contemporary artist Nolan Oswald Dennis is creating a “live” mural inspired by the museum’s archive, during the run of the exhibition.

Activate/Captivate also explores how, over the years, the artworks in the Wits collection have inspired the art-making of many contemporary South African artists, such as Walter Oltmann, Deborah Bell and Yael Feldman.

Collaborative works with the Wits Music School, the Wits Digital Art Department, the Wits Fine Art Department, the University of Johannesburg Graphic Design Department and South African artists all form part of this rich and multi-faceted exhibition. It is accompanied by a peer-reviewed catalogue.

With special thanks to the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

Wits Art Museum is situated on the corner of Bertha (extension of Jan Smuts Avenue) and Jorissen streets, Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Entrance is on Jorissen Street, just after the Station Street intersection (directly after the bus stop on the left).

The exhibition ends on 7 February 2016. Wits Art Museum is open from Wednesdays to Sundays from 10h00 to 16h00.

For more information go to, visit the Facebook page: WitsArtMuseum or follow WAM on Twitter: @WitsArtMuseum

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