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Ancient African Masks Meet Augmented Reality in Artechouse’s June Exhibit

"Aṣẹ: Afro Frequencies" will showcase interactive Afro-surrealism.

Image rendering of Artechouse exhibit. Photograph courtesy of Artechouse.

The colorful, floral vibes of Artechouse’s springtime cherry blossom exhibit will soon make way for Aṣẹ: Afro Frequencies, a summer installation designed to bring African culture and storytelling to life. Visitors to the Wharf’s audiovisual art space can take a deep-dive into Afro-surrealist artwork starting June 13. Interactive exhibits will allow viewers to virtually try on traditional masks and walk inside a futuristic African map.

“I wanted to touch on a lot of these forgotten and untold stories about African kings and queens,” says Vince Fraser, the London-based artist whose designs are featured in the exhibit. “I’ll take something from the past, like an ancient African mask, and then I’ll bring it into the present.” (Aṣẹ refers to the Yoruba people’s philosophical idea about the power to create change.) Before his career in visual art, Fraser worked in interior design—storytelling in 3D, he says, feels natural to him. Audio featuring rhythmic drumming and spoken-word poetry by musician and poet Ursula Rucker accompanies Fraser’s works in the installation. 

“It’s a celebration of black culture,” says Artechouse’s founder and Chief Creative Officer Sandro Kereselidze. “The goal here is to really approach the whole storytelling in a celebratory way, and to make people engage.” The exhibit’s main installation, titled Visions of the Black Experience, will include 20 to 25 minutes worth of video loops exploring social justice issues and triumphs of the global Black community.

The exhibit will come to DC fresh from its current run at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in Las Vegas and debuted last summer at Artechouse’s Miami location. “We need to recreate, reconfigure, and redesign the content to fit in each of our spaces to make sure that we keep the aesthetic—the story and energy and dynamics,” Kereselidze says. “Every space that we have is very different.” In the DC location, the installation will include multiple galleries showing seven distinct artworks, including a projection-mapped sculpture inside a fully mirrored room.

The exhibit will mark five years since Kereselidze, a Washington resident since 1994, opened the organization’s first location here in DC.

Kayla Benjamin
Assistant Editor