Atlanta brings art to life with technology

In light of the upcoming Van Gogh exhibit, Atlanta artists share how they combine their work with technology. Photo Submitted by Neil Pweitt

Van Gogh – The Immersive Experience” is coming to Atlanta in May, and visitors have a chance to step into the artist’s famous works. The exhibit will incorporate 360-degree digital projection, VR experience and dynamic lighting and sound to provide a unique perspective.

The combination of technology and art is not new, but it’s becoming all the more critical with the rise of the digital age. Multimedia and multidimensional art is becoming more inclusive and easier to share and compensate artists.

Elizabeth Strickler is a senior lecturer and director of entrepreneurship programs in the Creative Media Industries Institute at Georgia State. Her work focuses on future business models inducing blockchains and NFTs. NFTs, or a non-fungible token, is a data unit on a digital ledger called a blockchain, where each NFT can represent a unique digital item. 

NFTs can represent digital files such as art, videos, songs and albums. Strickler saw how it was possible to own something digital because, in her perspective, the internet is a giant copying machine. 

“I got really excited about that and have been working in that space at the intersection of decentralization and digital labor,” Strickler said. “And how people who are creatives can actually make a living because they can own and monetize everything that they create.”

Even with a computer science background, Strickler admits that navigating that space is complicated, but it gets easier over time. She has a passion for helping others learn how to succeed in this growing business model. 

“I have a really strong desire to teach non-computer-oriented people technical concepts so that they can participate in the new economy,” she said. “I feel like if you don’t understand technology, you are going to get left behind.”

Strickler was the first person to do projection installations at Georgia State. These installations were part of the Window Project. Stickler and her co-workers projected videos on six panels of frosted glass on what is now known as the Creative Media Industries Institute. They got people from around the world to submit work that would be projected onto these panels at night.

Like the Van Gogh exhibit, the Window Project also used mediated architecture to merge digital art with physical reality. The Window Project’s vision paved the way for much higher-end projections with the current LED display using NanoLumens at the Creative Media Industries Institute. 

Maggie Kane, also known as, is an Atlanta-based artist and activist who creates interactive experiences that explore technology in creative spaces. They work in an intersection of art and community organizing. A lot of the work Kane does is within open source technology and community-based events.

As a self-taught technologist with a background in art, Kane uses their skills to teach and create. They believe that education can fundamentally be a part of activism and resistance as it brings autonomy and agency back to the people.

“I like connecting with people, and part of mutual aid is not necessarily being an expert or gatekeeper of knowledge,” Kane said. “I try to be a facilitator, and I love researching, so I compile resources whenever I can, and then I share them whenever they’re appropriate.”

Kane has always been a hands-on person who loves to work with physical elements and doing direct action. This passion led to them designing and leading the builds of free public food shelters for Free99Fridge, an Atlanta-based grassroots organization committed to fighting for food justice and addressing the community’s needs through mutual aid. 

“I eventually want to create a very detailed step-by-step process of how to build a shelter and publish it online so that anyone in any community can build one,” Kane said. “I want to make it kind of like a toolkit for people to [follow].”

Some immersive art uses installations and participatory performance, which Neill Prewitt, an artist, lecturer in foundations and the foundations coordinator at Georgia State, does.  

“I would say [my art] is imbued with playfulness and interaction,” Prewitt said. ”My art practice grew out of playing and performing music in what I would call like a DIY scene.”

His work explores how performance can be fun and practice embodied and critical inquiry. Prewitt sees that digital media is especially relevant right now, not just artistically but culturally with the digitization of life. 

He started making videos to go along with his music when he was younger and playing in bands, but they weren’t traditional music videos. Instead, he created imagery that fit the theme and would evoke a mood for it. 

In a video titled “My Heart Beats,” Prewitt creates a whimsical mood by utilizing his voice along with imagery of floating objects in a black void. 

One by one, seemingly mundane things like a lampshade and shovel enter the void, playfully poking in and out from all directions. At the same time, a voice is making sounds that relate to the object. 

“There’s a bunch of those sounds, and they start repeating, then they start building up into a song,” Prewitt said. “Because it’s all on this black void, they’re all kind of like coming into this one space and adding up together.”

Prewitt recently exhibited an installation version of “My Heart Beats.” The video’s projected on all four walls of the room, with a speaker on each wall. He placed the objects from the video on different walls so they would surround the audience.

“What I was interested in doing with that is taking the video and making it more immersive, and putting the audience in that black void,” he said.

As for the future of art, Prewitt expects to see more young people incorporating technology into their work. He finds the upcoming Van Gogh experience fascinating, not only because it’s bringing one of the most famous artists to life but also emphasizes the potential of art with new technology. 

“If students want to make work like this, it’s not gonna look like the Van Gogh experience straight out, but if you have a smartphone, you can create VR, augmented reality and make your art immersive too,” Prewitt said.