Oliver Mayhew

Oliver Mayhew (1990 - ) combines his formal training in traditional printmaking mediums with his self-taught knowledge of new media mediums. He has completed his major in BA(fine arts) at University of Pretoria.  

Mayhew explores the junctures between current technologies and traditional forms of expression. His interest lies in mitigating machine imaginations achieved through machine learning to augmented reality as "invisible" models that deliver either haunting or invasive commentary in a socio-political context.

Artist Statements

Post Apartment
Post Apartment
Augmented Reality app “Outmeant”, postcards, OBS board

Post Apartment is a project that deals with inner-city Johannesburg’s hijacked buildings and the social and historical implications of these buildings. The project derived from the artist’s documentation of a hijacked building opposite his studio. The documentation was done through a mirror-photo app as it created a personifying effect that changed the structural qualities of the building to mouths or eyes that are able to “observe” and “communicate”.

Cellphones as a medium in the project were considered as the building was synonymous with thieves that robbed passersbys of their belongings (this resulted in the ostracization of the residents in the building). Cellphones play an integral role in our ability to stay connected with our network as well as with our identity. It acts as a pocket-sized manifestation of our recorded history and losing it is a loss of self and a network that you belong to. On a parallel issue, gentrification acts in a similar vein as it becomes a barrier to a network of people and opportunities. Gentrification for the artist resembles a locked cellphone as it loses it core purpose and becomes a detached object with a sole monetary value exactly like a bar of gold.

What is mine, isn't mine, is mine
What is mine, isn't mine
Virtual Reality headset, Lyrebird Realistic Voice Cloning, FakeAPP, GAN

Artificial Intelligence has made it possible to blur the lines between fiction and truth even more so as these technologies, for example, can alter or replace the face of a person in a video with another person's. Digitally capture a voice and mimic it relatively accurately or even alter a painter's expression of their immediate environment or imagination of an environment to that of a photograph.


All of the media in the VR experience has been altered with these technologies and it questions the impact that these technologies will have on the commentary and representation of cultures. These technologies allow the average person to create the perception and consumption of reality instead of big-budget institutions.

Body-film: “Mapantsula”
Mixed Reality app “Body Film”, Oliver Schmidt's film “Mapantsula”

The remake of the 1987 film “Mapantsula” by Oliver Schmidt. was banned during the Apartheid era as it portrayed the story of a thief in inner-city Johannesburg who had to make a choice of either living life selfishly or joining the struggle movement to dismantle Apartheid. The film was exported at one frame every second and two identical sets of this export were created. One set would have all the lighter colours removed and in the other set, all the darker colours would then be removed through the use of a colour selection tool in a photo editing program. The two synchronic variations of censorships would then travel towards one another and each respective frame will for a brief moment complete each other.In the Mixed Reality room, each of the sets will generate a subsequent frame dependent on the viewer’s movement instead of the traditional time sequencing. The narrative of the film constantly changes, because of the choices the viewer makes eg. where the viewer looks and moves.

Augmented Reality app “Unpop”, 3D model of Rhodes Tomato and Onion Mix

Un-pop is a reaction to the #RhodesMustFall movement in South Africa. It is a playful approach to the Pop culture Icon, Andy Warhol’s Campbell soup cans. This project allows the viewer to place the Rhodes cans in their environment and engage with it as an Augmented object that is both invasive and dependant on the viewer's cellphone camera's perceived reality. Once the cans have been placed the viewer can then transform the objects both in size, rotation, and location in the virtual environment.

Autumn Leaves
CycleGAN generated images printed on Awagami Paper

Autumn Leaves is an investigation on whether the past is still present or whether it is in the process of leaving. In current global socio-political narratives, Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has become a contributing factor to the rise of populism. The current populist narrative has resembling characteristics of the National Party’s political underpinning when it was canvassing during the 1948 elections. With the unrepresented and mostly unemployed white Afrikaner, the NP party got its backbone and seat of power. With the disruptive capacity of AI technology, a majority of people are anticipating a bleak economic outlook due to the potential the technology has on replacing their skills and know-how.

In the solo project AI technology was used to compile machine imaginations of Apartheid through the structural and compositional perspective of two trees. The datasets that were utilized to generate the compositions of the art­works are films that exposed the socio-political context of Apartheid and footage the artist took of an invasive tree from China, the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus Altissima) as well as a similar-looking indigenous tree, The Forest Elder (Nuxia floribunda). The Tree of Heaven grows at a rapid pace and is perceived as a tree that reaches for heaven, whereas the Forest Elder grows at a slower rate and might grow at one meter a year in optimal conditions.


There is “great disorder under the Heavens and the situation is excellent.” This quote by Mao Zedong was part of the artist’s process that led to the solo exhibition, Autumn Leaves as it presents the ethical implication regarding Ma­chine Learning’s capability of rewriting history on a pace previously unimaginable.

Receipt Poem: Shop Right
Caution Sign Boards, Receipts, Sound

Receipt Poem: Shop Right is a response to 2016 Shoprite CEO, Whitey Bason's remuneration who received R49.7 million in basic annual salary, as well as R50 million one-time performance-related bonus, whereas the bulk of Shoprite employees earn an R2000 monthly salary. 

The Gini Coefficient is a measurer of a country's income equality which ranges between 1 and 0. Where a 0 would mean that income equality is perfectly spread throughout the country and a 1 would indicate that all the wealth is owned by an individual. South Africa's Gini coefficient is regarded as one of the most unequal as it ranges between 0.660 and 0.696 depending on what variables are used to measure the inequality, time period and the dataset.

video footage courtesy of ABSA Group SA.

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