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Strange interpretations as artists tackle wireless’s impact on modern living

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Wireless as a concept is often presented as a round dot with waves rippling from it in ever expanding arches. That is possibly what multimedia artist Ronex Ahimbisibwe sets out to capture in sculpture at an exhibition at Makerere Art Gallery in Kampala, writes Dominic Muwanguzi.

He presents four molds of blocks from painted steel plates starting with the dot, which in 3D looks like a red-topped blue puff on the gallery’s green grass lawn. Together with the other three blocks arranged around it, like arch-shaped benches, the sculpture looks like an invitation to sit – or interact, if you like.

The sculpture evokes the Google sign that appears on many wireless interfaces, including as a check mail sign. The arrangement also evokes the strength of available wireless signal on a mobile phone handset interface.

In any case, Ronex intends the sculpture to stimulate dialogue on the manner in which the worldwide web impacts our lives today. He translates the concept of virtual connectivity into social exchange.

 At taste of virtual mobility Makerere

It is all part of the `Wireless, 2016 series’ and adopts its functional aspect by inviting the audience to interact with it in the space it occupies. The public can experience virtual and real interaction while using /sitting on the sculpture. The sculpture becomes interactive and meets the objective of public sculptures of interacting with the public in order to transform the lives of the audience and promote the value of in society.

The exhibition is under the theme of `Virtual mobility’ and showcases how the internet affects our lives on a day to day basis.  With mobile communication and the internet visible in every corner of the continent and particular telecom companies enjoying a monopoly in business,  this trend reflects  how communication has evolved and how critical it is today in our life ( and even government).

Inside the gallery space, Matt Kayem, displays an installation of a heap of soil, old chair and desk, and an old fashioned computer part and a gourd tied up together with banana fibre.  Titled `Stuck Traveller’ the installation is inspired by the way the internet has affected movements in such a way that one does not need to move to find information. Its fusion of synthetic and organic media is symbolic to the transition from African traditional society medium of communication and movement to the contemporary. It is also a showcases the marriage between the traditional art forms and the contemporary visible in many contemporary African art today.

The `Simcard project (ongoing)’ by Kenyan- London based artist, Isaac Kariuki is influenced by the monopoly of the telecom Company, Safaricom, in Kenya. The artist employs the technique of emblazoning is face and that of some locals on the face of the simcard to show how the telecommunication company is impacting the lives of the citizens despite the incredible tariffs it charges.

Kariuki’s artwork conjures the exploitative nature of these multi-national telecommunication companies on citizens in a particular locale and how government does nothing about their manipulation. The fact that the artist becomes part of the artwork; the technique of printing his face on the face of the card; stimulates the aspect of interaction and inclusion. The artwork ceases to be a plain art piece hanging in the gallery space and becomes a podium of social criticism and assessment.

The exhibition gains its strength not only as a platform to discuss such important issues of life but being palpable to all types of audiences regardless of social background.

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