Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Eyeball takes visitors sight-seeing

Armagan Ballantyne (left) and Jon Baxter with the giant eye installation at Motat as part of the new exhibition. Photo / Supplied
Armagan Ballantyne (left) and Jon Baxter with the giant eye installation at Motat as part of the new exhibition. Photo / Supplied

An Auckland exhibition combining art and cutting-edge innovation has proven an eye-opening exercise for two Kiwi film-makers.

Armagan Ballantyne and Jon Baxter have teamed up with ODocs Eye Care - an award-winning Kiwi company that's created a world-first smartphone app - for a new feature at the Idea Collective, an ongoing exhibition at the Museum of Transport and Technology (Motat).

While the pair have enjoyed richly creative careers - Ballantyne's 2009 film The Strength of Water was shown at festivals around the world and Baxter has created videos for Wellington Museum and Auckland Art Gallery - working with leading innovators had been a refreshing first.

Bringing together artists with homegrown tech companies has been the central theme of the Idea Collective and one project leader Luke Diggins acknowledged was a complete departure from Motat's usual offering.

Ballantyne said it was a "really neat brief" to design something that reflected the work of oDocs, whose app helped diagnose people who may have sight-threatening illnesses, performing a similar function to that done with $50,000 of eye-examination equipment.

The open-source product has now been downloaded by thousands of people around the world.

"These guys being able to create something that helps detect problems early on, and lets people regain their sight, is a pretty amazing thing."

Their resulting installation was a large eyeball that aimed to create a deeper understanding of sight, how the eye works, and what happens when it fails.

Visitors will be able to peer inside the construction to gain an eye's field of view, and how it changes when affected by disease.

"It's not just about celebrating vision: it also illustrates the perils of losing your sight, and how traumatising that would actually be," Baxter said.

ODocs' creative director Alain Brideson said the collaboration had been exciting.

"It's been interesting to see how a piece of innovation can be translated into something artistic, to communicate what it's like to lose your sight."

The installation - alongside another based on micro-oxygenating product The Wine Grenade - will be launched at an event on Thursday night.

- NZ Herald

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