Ghost exhibit brings ghosts of mental illness to life


A combination of virtual reality and augmented reality creates a new kind of gallery exhibition with Aluta Null’s, Phantom. Photo: Supplied


We’ve come a long way from what looks to prehistoric times, when computers and video games were only available to large corporations and universities. From the days of the ubiquitous Nokia Snake gaming to the early days of the PlayStation console, we’ve seen video games and the way people interact with them miraculously change – almost from another world.

Digital artist and video game designer Aluta Null (23) is taking a new step in the evolution of video game design with his contribution to the Bubblegum Club multimedia center residency.

Born and raised in Johannesburg, she quickly took inspiration from the beauty of the cityscape.

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With an education filled with wonderful, childlike explorations, she was able to bring this innocent wonder into her adulthood, which she points out mainly exists in her creative endeavors today.

Null says:

I am obsessed with art, because I am clumsy and introverted. Art and game design are my means of expressing myself. Aluta Null is a character I created, and she’s super fiery, she’s brave and loud.

Bubblegum Club is known for providing its audience with interesting and unique art. The hub runs a residency program in which it selects artists to produce month-long installments in a studio. As the fifth resident, Null’s exhibition was selected for September, but due to the brilliant reception it received, its duration was extended until the end of this month.

Her play, Phantom, uses virtual and augmented reality to communicate her perspective on the reality of mental illness.

As the mental health crisis increases in advocacy and recognition among young people, the article is a brilliant exploration of life through the eyes of those with mental illness.

As the mental health crisis grows in advocacy and recognition. Phantom is a brilliant exploration of life through the eyes of those with mental illness. Photo: Supplied

The Phantom installation shows real-life scenarios through the innovative use of technology. Photo: Supplied

This, coupled with the idea of ​​ghosts, shows the real horrors of isolation experienced by people with mental illness.

“I used the idea of ​​ghosts to communicate the same idea of ​​passively floating through life. I created a physical piece reminiscent of a dark comedy sitcom, and once one engages in the room digitally by scanning objects and images with their phone, a very sinister alternative is shown that communicates my point. of sight, which is often not much is seen until you question it further.

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Using virtual reality headsets, Null breaks the fourth wall between audience and art, showing us the heartbreaking nature of mental illness, but also allowing isolation – the one we experience together – to unify us. a special way. Glitches and statics are used to advance ideas about trauma, mental processing errors, and disintegration.

“There are many aspects of mental health that are difficult to understand. Virtual reality headsets turn the room into a dark, shattered room. I hope people interpret the energy of error and disintegration through this and know that they are not alone.

I just want people to know that fear isn’t felt by them alone, and that prospect can be really wild. I wanted to create an interesting way of thinking about mental health issues by showing another layer of meaning when something is engaged differently.

The timing of the exhibit is perfect – October is Mental Health Awareness Month in South Africa.

The contrasting ideas between mind and reality are enhanced by her vibrant and transcendent use of color.

“There is a huge contrast between the physical room and the virtual reality room. The physical room is bright with reds, yellows, and greens, but the virtual reality room is dark, with lots of blues, purples, and blacks. It was really just for the contrast and to create different moods. My mind works in a weird way that I don’t know how to explain, ”says Null.

Its ability to find the connection between body and machine becomes critical when you think about technological advancements and how these advancements continue to reshape the human form. But first, a deeper understanding of the human mind is needed.

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Its innovative use of augmented reality, as opposed to 2D objects, is an extremely evolved idea. When we consider the technological advancements of South Africa as a whole, it shows us the possibilities of digital media, when we change our perspectives and consider the realities of life and health.

With her eye on the prize and a mind full of innovative ideas, Null is eager to explore the outer ends of her art, provided she secures funding.

The exhibition can be viewed at the Bubblegum Gallery in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, by appointment only, until the end of October.

She says, “I’m currently working on a project called Barbie Must Die. It’s a project on beauty ideals and beauty standards, but we can catch up soon.

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