At first glance, Darryl Chin's screen-printed jackets look to be contemporary because of their abstract patterns and careful construction - but they're a lot more artful than an initial look and touch of the fabric reveals.

The black and white prints are peppered with brighter coloured patches which, in turn, are embedded with Near Field Communication (NFC) chips. This transforms the clothing from high-fashion to high-tech with the chips activated when a suitably enabled mobile device comes in close contact with a patch. They're then able to link to online sites that are interconnected and virtually navigable.

Chin made them with sewer/garment constructor Zoe Wilder and virtual technician Francis Maslin-Ross but the trio isn't showing the clothing at a fashion event. Instead, the work is displayed at this weekend's Elam Artists Graduate Show – an annual event regarded as one of the best places to spot New Zealand's next generation of emerging artists.

More than 100 contemporary art projects are exhibited, ranging from traditional painting, sculpture and ceramics through to the virtual reality clothing made by Chin and the network of artists he creates with. His project, Offline Presents, also includes a virtual reality walk into another gallery.


The idea is to highlight how digital spaces play into capitalism and consumerism. Chin's artist statement says the clothes were developed from an idea of resistance against the power of algorithms, information and networks have over our lives and the ways in which we form our identities and perspectives.

"The online network allows artists and communities to distribute their practices and the clothes aim to bring these spaces into the everyday. As the platform grows, we hope that you can contribute to the evolution of different idea within an inclusive community who value intercultural sharing of knowledge and experiences."

Head of Elam School of Fine Arts, Dr Peter Shand walks through one of the spaces with art for the school's end of year graduate show. Photo / Dean Purcell
Head of Elam School of Fine Arts, Dr Peter Shand walks through one of the spaces with art for the school's end of year graduate show. Photo / Dean Purcell

Dr Peter Shand, who heads the University of Auckland's Elam School of Fine Arts, says the annual show certainly contains a growing amount of moving image and virtual art but stresses there's still a strong focus on materials and the physical properties of the work.

"It's also about different want of presenting work and communicating things that can be so internal to one's view of the world and the processes of making work," says Shand. "It raises questions about what does it mean to take the work 'outdoors' and back into the world."

In the last two years, Elam itself has gone higher tech with a website dedicated to those exhibiting in the end-of-year show. Shand says students ultimately decide whether they participate in the exhibition, which occupies spaces and galleries in five university buildings right across the campus and attracts thousands of art-lovers keen to see what's new and emerging.

While the work isn't overtly for sale, those who decide there's a piece they just can't live without are welcome to contact the artists to negotiate a sale. Given that Elam was founded in 1890 and graduate shows have been held for decades, there's a fair chance fortune may have favoured the brave with the likes of past pupils including Gretchen Albrecht, Don Binney, Michael Parekowhai and Ian Scott.

Luke Willis Thompson, who graduated from Elam with a Master of Fine Arts degree in 2010, took part in the graduate shows. In just under a fortnight, Thompson – and the world – will find out whether he's won the United Kingdom's Turner Prize and the £25,000 reward which accompanies it.

Nominated for an installation called Autoportrait, Thompson is the second New Zealander (after Boyd Webb in 1988) to be singularly nominated for the award but Kiwi artist Louis Schulz won the prize in 2015 as part of the London-based collective Assemble.

• Elam Artists Graduate Show, until Sunday at 5pm.