The era of immersive art experiences is in its infancy, a digital dawn that will only evolve as Masters shows thrill audiences, NFTs create new revenue streams for artists and that metaverses will open up new frontiers in virtual reality. London-based illustrator Vince Fraser can be considered a pioneer in perfecting a blend of sight and sound while illuminating where the immersive path can lead with Ase: Afro Frequenciesa superb Afro-Surrealist exhibition which runs until April 18 at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art.
Fraser collaborated with spoken word artist Ursula Rucker to create Ase for an exhibition at Miami’s experiential Artechouse gallery that ran from May to December. Less than two weeks after it closed in the Sunshine State, it was installed at the BGFA and ready to play in Las Vegas. Ase: (ah-shay), a philosophical belief of the Yoruba people of West Africa, is used to invoke power and change. The word itself can be translated as “as it should be done”, while spiritual life force holders who bring about change are considered alaase.
The alaases here are Fraser, Rucker, and the creatives at Artechouse who served as sound designers and feature animators. The three main components of the Vegas exhibit include the Egungun series, which captures viewers’ images on video canvases and grafts tribal African masks onto their faces. Egungun refers to a Yoruba masquerade or masked figure, with facial disguises believed to be “doorways to concepts beyond the realm of the everyday” which represent ancestors, animals or spirits and are worn during celebrations and of rituals.
Here, the masks move and change size as participants learn to position themselves effectively in front of adjacent cameras. The result is an instant plot that sparks interest in the meaning behind the masks. They shimmer with the movements of the viewer, but not as startlingly as in Afrotude, where depth cameras concoct a life-size figure that pulsates and spins fascinatingly to the rhythm of the beats in front of a kinetic floor projection that serves as an animated carpet. .
Rucker, familiar to fans of hip-hop group The Roots and one of the most talented poets of her generation, has poems tied to individual Enungan video canvases, but her voice really connects the screening room of the exposure. The three-wall landscape of dazzling, shifting and uplifting surreal images is drawn from African culture, contemporary urban life and a transcendental imagination. Even when tribal drums rival his verses, Rucker’s soothing voice pierces with alliterative mantras (“Peace…persecution…perseverance”).
The exhibition’s themes of the possibilities inherent in hope and rebirth, projecting the virtues of positive energy without falling into symbolic platitudes, are indelibly imprinted on the visitor. Ase: Afro Frequencies won Best Exhibit honors in Time Out Miami’s 2021 Best of the City awards. His engagement at BGFA is a rare opportunity in Las Vegas to absorb the collaborative vision of a world-class digital artist and wordsmith as they honor African culture while fostering excellence. in their respective arts.
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