Fridays are a much-anticipated day at Johannesburg’s Eden, a studio of creators, innovators and thought-leaders in the virtual reality (VR) industry. On this day of the week the studio hosts its Art and Tech Sessions, developing immersive experiences with artists, focused on VR, augmented reality (AR), 3D printing and software development. “People think VR is super complicated and you have to be a geek to be able to use these tools,” says Director of Technology Rick Treweek of the reason they started the Art and Tech Sessions, hosting a different artist each week. “Within two hours the artists are sculpting in VR and creating 3D print files, so it shifts their mindset from it being impossible to actually doing it themselves on that day.”
People who have participated in these sessions (for which one needs to apply) include visual artist Keneilwe Mokoena, photographer Jono Wood, illustrators Tako + Panda, and milliner Crystal Birch. The sessions are about playful exploration, where artists get to try new things with the help of tech tools. Eden’s Art Director Gareth Steele explains how Birch’s session allowed the hat-maker to investigate small-run manufacturing and rapid prototyping of her hat accessories. “She doesn’t normally use a computer in her process as her hats are completely handmade, so 3D scanning showed her how to scan a head to get an accurate fitting and create a custom mould for a head, for example.” He explains how the exercise allowed Birch to conceptualise materials and visualise styles that she would not have been able to do in a traditional studio with everyday materials.
Mixed-media artist Io Makandal was another Art and Tech Sessions participant who got to experience the ways in which technology can benefit her practice. Treweek says she came without any knowledge of AR, but soon realised that it was exactly what she had been dreaming of for her artwork. “During the session, our programmer quickly knocked something together, Io sculpted something in VR and we built an AR world in our foyer. You could see her brain exploding. Her dream had been taken into a real domain.”
Because most of Eden’s 13-person team is made up of creative minds (many come from video-game design backgrounds), there’s an artistic element to much of what the company does. This allows it to easily bridge the gap between artists and programmers. That’s part of what made The Lost Botanist film such a success. The five-minute 2D animation in a 360 VR environment, created in collaboration with Treweek’s sister, illustrator and animator Ree Treweek, was screened last year at France’s Annecy International Animation Film Festival, the first African-produced VR film ever to be shown at the event.
“Technology makes artists curious to a whole new world,” says Treweek, adding that such collaboration, particularly on a continent like Africa that is not known to be technologically advanced, can open a whole world of innovation.
To apply to be part of an Art and Tech Session once lockdown is lifted, email
100 Beautiful Things is presented by the V&A Waterfront in celebration of South Africa’s creativity, compassion, ingenuity and resilience. Every week we will be showcasing five amazingly beautiful creative things that make us proud. It is curated in partnership with Platform Creative.