Humanities and Social Sciences Award for Dr Kurt Campbell

9 Apr 2019 - 13:45

Dr Kurt Campbell (centre) and Dr Heidi Grunenbaum at the awards ceremony

Dr Kurt Campbell, Michaelis School of Fine Art, together with Heidi Grunebaum from UWC (Centre for Humanities Research), won the Creative Collections award for Best Exhibition Catalogue for their publication Athlone in Mind, at the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) Awards: Books, Creative Collection and Digital Contribution 2019.

The Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) Awards serve as a crucial platform for unearthing new voices nad finding South African storeis that cast a light on us as a nation.  The ceremony, which was held on 14 march 2019 at the renowned John Kani Theatre in Johannesburg, was a gatherine of leading HSS scholars and academics who congregated to honour and celebrate outstanding contributions to the HSS by acadmics, curators and artists based at participating South African universities.  

In the keynote opening address, the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, (DHET), Buti Manamela highlighted that the disciplines of the HSS are pivotal on how society is viewed, and most importantly in its transformation.  

Technology systems in the exhibition:  The exhibition 'Athlone in Mind’ featured the most advanced complementary technologies available today.  It deployed a number of i-beacon transmitters, able to circulate the website and catalogue created for this exhibition to all who are in possession of a smartphone. I-beacons are small battery-powered sensor devices that wirelessly communicate and transmit data to apps on mobile devices using Bluetooth technology. The mobile device is triggered to display content: video, voice, images and music emanating from the exhibition and the events that support the conference. Thus viewers at the Castle will be able to immerse themselves in a self-service multimedia experience that is relevant to what they are looking at and to access information that they are able to store well beyond the three-day event.

Crucially, the i-beacon transmitters will be placed at sites in Athlone, Langa and Gugulethu in the form of downloadable scholarly and creative work. In this sense, the beacons offer a digital bridge to the exhibition and the proceedings the conference enables. This is the first occasion where this technology has been deployed in such an intellectually apposite way, literally bringing the exhibition and conference proceedings to the door of the very place the exhibition takes as the object of study.

Other bespoke technological features created for this exhibition include augmented reality applications, allowing selected video clips of the artists talking about their creative processes to appear on smartphones when positioned near certain images in the exhibition catalogue. This, in effect, allows for a constant walking tour of the exhibition that is navigated by paging through the catalogue. This is known as non-marker tracking, and creates an intimate experience between the viewer and the catalogue images. 

Campbell commented that his work with Heidi Grunebaum from UCT displayed a great example of inter-university collaboration with colleagues in the field.