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Setting the Stage for the Future of Art in Asia

How MeshMinds brings art and technology together for social impact

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BY Pauline Mendoza - 11 May 2018

future of art

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

What if people can go inside a painting instead of just looking at it?

Enter creative technology and be amazed at how yesterday’s dream can be a reality today.

One of the advocates of the creative technology space is MeshMinds, a Singapore-based impact investor that incubates Asian artists and start-ups in the digital age. It aims to bridge art and technology for social good.

“I thought it would be a good idea to bring artists and technologists together so they could work on projects that would have impact and powerful messages,” says technology lawyer Kay Vasey, founder and chief connecting officer at MeshMinds.

“I have seen a lot of technology companies in the West all having creative investment programs that they run in America, and although all of these companies have their Asia headquarters in Singapore, they’re not really doing much in relation to creative investment programs [in the region].”

MeshMinds partners with hardware and software companies for tools, gives training on augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D printing, and Internet of things to artists and creative start-ups, and showcases their work in various ways.

Launch of an innovation lab

Last January, the organization launched MeshMinds 1.0: ArtxTechforGood, an innovation lab that engages Asian artists with emerging technologies to create experimental art with the goal of making an impact in sustainability.

Visitors of the exhibit were greeted with a series of interactive artistic experiences using emerging technologies. Among these were: a digital game that raises awareness on social and environmental issues like global warming; hand-made electronic musical instruments activated by sensors; an artwork that revolutionizes the industrial creation process through a 3D-printed building that can be explored via VR.

Aside from the innovation lab and exhibit, MeshMinds also supports other projects adhering to the same goals.

“One of our leading projects is a virtual reality experience called Oceans We Make. And it’s done in collaboration with a VR content creation company called Warrior9 VR,” says Vasey. Using VR technology, Oceans We Make is a multi-sensory experience that gamifies the process of delivering powerful messages about environmental conservation.

“It’s like you’re diving through the ocean. And in the beginning, it’s like ‘Oh, this is a very nice experience.’ You’ll genuinely feel like you’re diving and then it says ‘Oh, can you just reach out to that little bit of plastic that you see floating there?’” shares Vasey.

The experience aims to raise awareness on the amount of plastic and other garbage deposited in the ocean.

She says, “When I first did it, I cried. It was so impactful, so powerful — being completely surrounded by pieces of plastic.”

Here’s a glimpse of the experience:

Boosting the Asian creative economy

MeshMinds is currently working on a digital innovation platform where artists and technologists can connect, collaborate, and create projects that fuse art and technology for creating social impact. It aims to develop capabilities for the creative economy by connecting industry leaders to artists and start-ups. Vasey and her team members hope to contribute to the future of art as they expose artists to emerging technologies and create opportunities for them to flourish in the creative economy.

Vasey trusts that connecting art and emerging technology in the Southeast Asian region can encourage content localization as Asian artists become more digitally literate. She adds, “The more inspiring Asian digital content we create and share, the more we can harness the power of technology to engage audiences, create new ways of experiencing a culture and produce real benefits to society.”

Digital art versus traditional art

“MeshMinds is not in the business of saying that digital art is better than traditional art,” says Vasey. “Actually, it’s very important to start with traditional arts and be really good at it — whether you are an illustrator or a musician or whatever your passion is.”

She encourages artists to look at how emerging technology can augment the art people create.

“If you are an illustrator, you might want to try out virtual reality painting. If you are a fine artist or sculptor, you might like to try your hand at 3D printing. If you are a musician, you might want to make your own musical instrument, and you can augment principles of Internet of Things to make really awesome new instruments,” she says.

One of her favorite possibilities in augmenting art and technology is when what people can historically do with, for instance, just pen and paper, can now be created through virtual reality.

“Your whole world is your canvas. You can swing wildly all around you, all around your body. You can be inside your painting,” she says. “And better than that, you can give the headset to your friend, whoever is standing next to you and say ‘look what I just created.’”

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