Preempt Group are using technology to reclaim cultural artefacts and propose new ways of digital archiving
A Breathing Space Project
In 2020 we saw many of our assumptions about society, culture and economy upturned or broken. We saw in equal measure the emergence of possibilities for rapid and transformative change, and the deepening of existing fractures and injustices. It is clear we are inside a period of disruption that neither began nor will end with the COVID-19 pandemic, and in which the larger social-economic-ecological crises of our time become vivid and present. Against this backdrop, the Breathing Space grant programme of Pro Helvetia’s Johannesburg office looked to enable modest relief, or ‘breathing space’, for arts practitioners, organisations and networks across the subcontinent to rethink ways of working, to experiment with new formats of production, exchange and collaboration and reimagine the shape and position of cultural and creative work.
Preempt Group is a multidisciplinary collective based in Johannesburg, South Africa, facilitated by Phumulani Ntuli and Mbali Dhlamini. The group works at the intersection of archives and open source technologies using film, performance and research. The collective engages diverse publics and audiences through workshops that attempt to make visible the presence of technology in decoloniality, and is interested in questioning how “open” open source technologies actually are, particularly if analysed through the lens of traditional epistemologies. The group realise their research through film and hyper media often reflecting on analogue and digital image making.
For their Geolocation project, Preempt Group are using 3D scanning and augmented reality software, often used in game development, to digitise sculptural artworks from contemporary South African artists as well as African artefacts from European museum collections. They explain that they are “using technology to reclaim cultural artefacts and through this process, attempt to investigate the impact of digital technologies on physical artefacts and how this might influence accessibility and how they are used.”
The scanned artworks and artefacts will be displayed through an open source/augmented interface app which will be available for download via the group’s website. The purpose of this app is to make accessible African artefacts that are currently housed in European museums, and engage in the dialogue around repatriation of African artefacts and decolonising museum displays.
3D SCANNING WORKSHOPS
For years, 3D scanning has been a somewhat mystified practice in the realm of high tech image making. The Kinect XBox opened new possibilities for 3D scanning and archiving of physical objects in virtual space amongst amateurs through the use of open source technologies.
Preempt Group invited six artists – Patrick Mautloa, Themba Khumalo, Setlamorago Mashilo, Sandile Radebe, Lehlogonolo Mashaba, and Specs Ndimande – to participate in a one-on-one 3D scanning workshop. During the session, the artists were introduced to the process of using a Kinect XBox, UV mapping and texturing using blender, editing and exporting 3D models. They were also shown how to use an open source process of archiving and developing concepts within their work.
ABOUT PREEMPT GROUP
The collective members of Preempt Group are Phumulani Ntuli and Mbali Dhlamini who have been working both individually and collectively in their practice for a period of five years with both professional and academic experience for education and technology.