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On this episode, we speak to the founder of MeshMinds– an impact investor in creative technology for good, founded by independent producer and media and technology lawyer Kay Vasey.

What does MeshMinds do?

MeshMinds selects artists and puts them through a mentorship and workshop programme with technologists. The programme equips them with new skills to create content using the new technologies introduced- think VR, AR, 3D printing and Internet of Things replacing the canvas for artists to create a work. The creations from their first four-month workshop are being showcased at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore until February 2.

How does MeshMind raise awareness about the planet and environment through their work?

“The planet part- for example if we need to think about plastic in our oceans, rising sea levels etc. When I tried out the “Oceans We Make”, in the beginning its quite exciting and in the end, you realise it’s such an enormous game, you will never ever be able to finish this game. It’s really incredible to be surrounded by all of the plastic.”

Can expressing ideas through VR have limitations?

“The fine line with VR- it can be so immersive and it can get to you, the heart of you so you have to be very careful about people’s emotions. It needed to be re-calibrated for an audience of children and adults as well. Because it’s volumetric, you feel like you are really in there. When they drop you into the ocean, I tell you, I held my breath.

It’s so real when you experience it for yourself- you are the diver.”

How do artists balancing their traditional skill with technology?

“We are not trying to stamp out traditional arts. We are not saying digital art is better than traditional art- we are saying take those traditional skills and nurture them. It’s so important and then use technology to push the boundaries of your artistic medium. You cannot draw well in Virtual Reality, if you can’t draw well with pen and paper. It’s just a simple fact.”

What is the trend you see with technology companies investing in artists?

“I am half-Singaporean, half-English and I have lived in both West & East. Through being a technology lawyer, I noticed a lot of these technology companies are investing in heavily in these creative in-residence programmes. Facebook has one, Google and Adobe have one, Autodesk has one. I realized there is this huge trend in Asia to having local content, so even Disney is investing heavily in having local content.

Yes, people are interested in having Mickey Mouse, but it’s better to have Mickey Mouse in Shanghai, for China or Mickey Mouse drinking a cup of “kopi” in Singapore, rather than doing all the Western things he normally
does.”

What is your ultimate goal for the artists?

“I want artists to push their boundaries and experiment to find out what they can do with their creative skill and use technology to communicate to a global audience.”

Why impact investing over charity?

“It’s not easy to go out and find a commercial for profit company that is in line with interests that you have, if you are motivated by “saving the planet” for example, or maybe a particular example, of orangutans. Is it so easy to find a charity that does that? Maybe.

Then you might want to work with an impact investor who is an artist and make an experience that can be shared globally that raises the awareness of the plight of the orangutans. That’s the difference. In the charity version, the money is going to make sure that the organutans have a sanctuary, the eco-tourism aspect is dealt with.

What we are doing is creating a messaging platform, that can bring together these artists and technologists because I feel artists are most well-placed in the world, to communicate ideas.”