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WSOA Digital Arts

An emphasis on collaborative creative projects
Within the School of Arts and across the University

Since it was launched in 2003 Digital Arts has actively fostered collaborative projects with other creative disciplines in the Wits School of Arts; notably Music and Dramatic Arts. In the rest of the University the Schools of Electrical Engineering and Architecture have been natural partners and we currently have several collaborative projects in process with their students.

Digital Arts has also partnered on experimental projects with innovative companies in the Digital Media industry such as Praekelt Consulting, Anamazing Workshop, DepthFX and Sick Pixie Films. Many other smaller projects have developed out of postgraduate student internships with a range of companies and studios.

Learning to work and communicate with experts from other disciplines is a key skill for the digital practitioner. New forms of collaboration as well as new creative works have been forged in all these projects.


Hamba Phambili

Wits Digital arts Interactive Media postgrads presented their mid-year exhibition, entitled “Hamba Phambili”,consisting of interactive installations at the Alexander Theatre, Braamfontein Johannesburg. 25 June 2012.


Null Pointer Exception Visit

The first research MA by Dissertation student in the Digital Arts was presented as an exhibition of four interactive installations by Maia Grotepass at a Stellenbosh Gallery in November 2012.  Grotepass’s research addressed the difference between engineers as coders and artists as coders. Her research centers on how the two approaches can inform and assist each other towards better development practice and ultimately better art making.

Robotic Orchestra

The Robotic Orchestra was a creative collaboration between Interactive Media students from Wits Digital Arts, Music students from Wits Music, and a student from the Wits School of Electrical Engineering. It had its first public performance in the Wits Amphitheatre on the evening of 17 November 2011.



Interactive Digital Media Colab 2010

Out of Body

Collaboration with the Digital Arts PG students and the 4th year electronic composition students, from the Music Division.  The Interactive Media students developed fun interactive way for the music students to make a live altered and interactive performance of their individual electronic compositions. Everything from dancing on pressure pads, motion capture, tracking gold fish to electronically hooking up a pencil to transform the sound when the examiners where making notes. The final was a collaboration between the Wits school of music, Wits Digital Arts and Wits Medical School, presented at the Wits Amphitheatre, Sunday 7 November 2010.



Interactive Digital Media Colab 2009

The Digital Arts Division of the Wits School of Arts ended the year with another super successful collaborative projects series. The 3D Animation group and the Interactive Digital Media group joined forces to present ‘Children of the Lab’ a joint evening of show&tell, performances, installation and screenings.

Mazwi Vezi who collaborated with the Vuyani Dance Company based at the Dance Factory in Newtown. The piece titled the Fruitless Tree was a dance piece that explored the degrading life of drug addicts and prostitutes in an attempt to show the futility in it. Vezi developed a program and interactive mechanism in which the dancers ‘speak’ through a series of photographs taken in Hillbrow and Soweto, these are triggered and changed by the dancers, through small contact microphones wired to the floor of the dance space. The contact mics would pick up vibrations from movements made in their vicinity.

Nathan Destro who worked with Praekelt Consulting a local networked media agency and a number of programmers located in Canada, Cape Town and Durban, with whom he worked remotely. Remix Your Photos is an interactive online application that allows people to upload their snaps and photos and then allows one to remix aspects of these with photos from across the globe. New images are created by remixing the background, sky or objects and figures in the foreground. Lots of fun.

Wayne Reddiar in collaboration with MSc candidate Tom Varghese, Architect and Designer Alex Opper and carpenter Leonard Russell, made a beautiful piece of interactive furniture titled In Memory of their Feelings . A side table for holding cutlery was developed to include a series of stanzas from the Susan Sontag?s poem ?In Memory of their Feelings? from the book Dancers On A Plane. Reddiar is highly influences by the enhancement of everyday objects as interactive poetic artworks. Reddiar is additionally influenced because of this by the potential for chance and meaning inherent in an engagement with such objects.

Londiwe Langa collaborated with violinist Kristel Birkholtz and choreographer Inga James. Staged grew out of Langa’s interest in the relationship between performance, composition and technology. The performance content addresses sexuality, success, failure, confidence and disappointment. The entire performance is controlled by Birkholtz through a program developed by Langa that uses colour tracking based on a computer vision model. In the performance Birkholtz performs her violin as she moves up and down a podium; on her playing hand she wears a red glove which is tracked by Langa?s program. When the glove is visible to the program samples are played, These samples are recordings related to news coverage on the emergence and shock of Caster Semenya’s transgender situation. The loudness of these samples, playing as Birkholtz plays the violin, is controlled by the height of the glove in relation to the ground. Therefore, allowing Birkholtz as the performer to control the playback and volume of the samples as she performs the piece.

Nathan Destro - Remix Your Photos

Londiwe Langa - Staged
Laura Nova – Artist in Residence

Laura Nova (www.lauranova.com) was visiting Artist in Residence at the Digital Arts Division of the Wits School of Arts in August and September 2009. She will finalized her stay with a very interactive (though not purely digital) exhibition in the Sub-Station Gallery. Nova additionally gave a Diva Talk on her work and practice.

One of her works titles “He Loves Me / He Loves Me Not” a large light installation subsequently donated to the Drama For Life program as an installation in the Film & TV corridor for the 2010 Drama from Life conference.

“UnUseless Interventions” – the workshop and product run by Nova during her residency, invited the students to make objects that were essentially useless but met a very specific conceptual need. For example: Nathan Destro developed a “Personal Space Protector” a large ring worn over the shoulders that would prevent anyone on the street from entering his “personal space” – a response to the over crowded streets in Johannesburg. Lonwabo Kilani developed a pair of Sunglasses with sponge on the inside, to where at funerals, to prevent people from seeing you cry. Nova’s exhibition includes a selection of works from the workshop, both the objects themselves and photo and video documentation of them in use.



The mid year show of the interactive media program, examined by artist Stephen Hobbs. The exhibition ran in June 2009. This is one of the annual interactive installation exhibitions held by the Interactive Media students as a mechanism to both test and show case the interactive objects and environments they learn to develop in the first half of the year.

2009 Animation Projects

In 2009, all 6 MA animation students collaborated with artists of their choice outside of the department including musicians, composers, sound designers and a martial arts expert to each produce a 2 minute short film.

The following films were the result of 6 months of hard work in the second semester. Snow by Rob Mills, After by William Mabin, The Last Dumpling by Stephen Cloete, Mandla and Sam by Lindile Mdena, The End of the Tunnel by Roland Kangong and Bird Brain by Andrew Haycock.

Snow by Rob Mills

Machinima Workshops and Event

In the beginning of 2009, German artist and experimental Machinima maker, Friedrick Kirschner spent a two weeks at the division workshoping the Animation and Interactive Media students. In this time we made a networked Machinima music video as well as learning techniques to attach our own virtual bodies to physical controls like joysticks and game controllers. Kirschner was invited to the school by the Goethe Institut and the highlight of his visit was the live digital scanning of our bodies on their premises. This was through a unique technique developed by Kirschner that 3d scanned people was they were slowly submerged in water – a really fun summer activity.

Internet Art at the Joburg Art Fair

Tegan Bristow lecturer in the Interactive Digital Media program co-curated with the Upgrade International Network a selection on Internet Art from South Africa, South America and Asia. This project titled Internet Art in the Global South flighted as a Special Project at the 2009 Joburg Art Fair. This collection is part of a research project by Bristow that extends the 3rd year Internet Art course and contributes to research on the use of the internet as a creative medium. To view the collection visithttp://jafnet.digitalarts.wits.ac.za.


Experimental Game Level.

Postgrad students collaborated with 4th year students from the School of Electrical Engineering and 3rd year composition students from the WSOA Music to create a level for an experimental art game. Directed by Pippa Tshabalala.

Interactive Music Learning Program

An interactive learning application for pre-school children to learn music and listening skills. The project was developed by 4th yr engineering students in collaboration with Interactive Media postgrads. Supervised by Tegan Bristow and Estelle Trengrove (Electrical Engineering)



A locative art project which image-mapped the penetration of mobile phone technology in the South African landscape. A collaboration between Interactive Media postgrad Mitch Said and Praekelt Consulting. Supervised by Christo Doherty

“Shogun Khumalo is Dying”

Three collaborative 3D animated films by Digital Animation postgrads. “The Secret Life of the Baoboab”, “Day 1″ and “Rebirth” based on the short film “Shogun Khumalo is Dying” by DC Studios.

Bluetooth Performance Module

a Bluetooth device to interface cellphone use with Max/MSP and Jitter. The module was specifically designed for audience interaction in live performance and installation work. A collaboration between Interactive Media postgrad Rosy Sbrana and 4th year Electrical Engineering students. Supervised by Estelle Trengove (Electrical Engineering)and Tegan Bristow.


Intelligent Glove

Collaboration between 4th year Electrical Engineering students and 2006 Interactive Media postgrads, Dareen Farghaly and Evans Netshivhambe. Chosen as best student Engineering project in South Africa in 2006.

Interpreting Joburg

A site-specific series of interactive and audio installations at 9 Wolmarans Street, Br mfontein. A collaboration between Interactive Media postgrads and WSOA students from Physical Theatre and Music together with 4th year School of Architecture students. Directed by Emmanuel Pratt (Architecture), Athena Mazarakis (Physical Theatre), Dimitri Voudouris (Music) with Tegan Bristow.

19 Minutes Later

A 3D animated short film. Collaboration between 2007 Digital Animation postgrads and scriptwriter Tinus Horn. Directed by Pippa Tshabalala.



A visual tool for configuring the interaction between objects and ActivX controls. Collaboration between 4th year Electrical Engineering students and 2005 Interactive Media postgrads. Supervised by Andre Venter.


A 3D animated pilot for a South African satirical sit-com. Collaboration between 2005 Digital Animation postgrads with DepthFX Animation, Anamazing Workshop and Quintet Films. Directed by Brent Quinn.


The Circences Project

2004 Digital Animation postgrads conceptualized and worked on a hypothetical game project.


The Feedback Project

A 3D animated pilot based on Andrew Buckland and Lionel Newton? award-winning eco-satirical theatre play. Directed by Philip Boltt with the 2003 Digital Animation postgrads.