Art Meets Technology at Ife Olowu’s “Metamorphosis” Exhibition

We visited Ife Olowu’s “Metamorphosis” exhibition at Cerra Cerni Arthub, Lekki to witness what was billed as a fresh take on how we consume and enjoy art – using the technology of of augmented reality. Olowu,a Lagos, Nigeria-based artist, had sent ArtBoard an invite, which we gratefully accepted.

The exhibition showcased a variety of art pieces old and new, with the central theme of the exhibition being the use of tech to improve and tell the stories of each of the paintings. The process was simple enough; a viewer would open their smartphone camera and view the artwork through it, the viewer is sent to a viewing web page, and after an initial welcome screen a live view of the artwork. You can imagine how thrilling it was to see the static dull scene of a Lagos neighbourhood erupt with torrents of rain, a rapture of the sound of thunder, and bright flashes of lightning.

Speaking to the Artist

When asked what drove him. Olowu responded that he sought something different from the normal course of art and wanted his pieces to stand out even more than the regular art and after careful consideration and intense study, he discovered his answer was augmented reality: a glance into the future.

What’s most peculiar about these art pieces isn’t only that the pictures come to life when viewed via Ife’s augmented reality site, but they also come with sound effects giving even more depth to these paintings. This particular feature distinguishes the artworks from others as each art piece now can tell its own story even to those with little or no knowledge about art.

When asked what some of the challenges he faced on the project were, he explained that the exhibition was put together in one month and despite the odds, he and his team were able to put it together even though some of the paintings were very recent. As regards Augmented reality, Olowu claimed his biggest challenge was when he was asked by a critic who he had gone to for sponsorship; “Why go to the future, when you can live in the present?”. He claimed this only challenged him to want to show his art to the world and show how short-sighted the critic was.

What will he do next?

Although he refused to give an outright answer as to what exactly to expect, Ife informed us that he doesn’t plan to stop at Augmented reality and as a matter of fact, he has advanced the technology to the point whereby, the artworks when viewed with a VR headset not only come to life, but absorbs the viewer into the reality as if one was in the artwork.

He also put it out that despite being the first artist to implement Augmented reality in art in West Africa, he holds no claim on the idea and if another artist were to implement the same feature in their art, he would have no problems against it. Over the next couple of years, Olowu hopes, augmented reality will become the present, viewed even on shirts and other surfaces. He anticipates that the use of the technology in art will become – perhaps – the norm.

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