Persona, a free interactive visual art exhibition created by Martin Maguire in collaboration with That’s Life and will run from November 4-11, 2022 at the Black Box Theatre in Galway.

This new contemporary photographic work using augmented reality features That’s Life art makers with intellectual disabilities. Participants were involved in a process to interpret specific characters from Greek mythology through costume and performance of their own making. Over a series of interactions, individuals selected who they wished to become, which persona they wanted to adopt and how they would like the world to see and hear them in their new imagined forms.

Persona uses augmented reality to make objects appear on demand as spectators interact with the work via smart devices. The objects are portraits of the That’s Life participants and show them in their natural state making various physical gestures and poses. Spectators will be able to reveal in real time the alter ego/new persona chosen and designed by the individuals themselves. When interacted with, an augmented reality overlay of this new character with costume and props appears, resulting in interactive portraits.

“The concept I developed was based around the idea of perceived identity – ‘persona’,” explains Martin. “I wanted to explore the many layers that exist between us and another individual. These often-opaque barriers can be populated with bias, preconceptions and assumptions. What is it like to truly see another human being? What is revealed when we take time to properly look and potentially see past a ‘character’ or ‘archetype’ we have assigned other people in haste?”

The project began in late 2020 when That’s Life and the Radius project invited Martin to create a new work which would collaborate directly with their participants. In early 2021 a series of engagements began with 10 members of That’s Life involving physical movement, spoken word, drawing, costume and performance. The idea developed into creating characters as a framework for exploration, focusing on the primordial gods. Each participant chose one of the 10 main primordial elements to explore out of air, sky, water, earth, day, night, underworld, darkness, love and time.

Participants began their exploration physically through movement in collaboration with Sandra O’Malley from Blue Raincoat Theatre in Sligo, then continued with spoken word and drawing. Each participant was interviewed about the human experience, life, death, love and loss. A unique drawing was created by participants that were then interpreted in textile form by costume designer and project collaborator Sharon Gilham, who created costumes that each participant would be photographed in for the work shown in the exhibition. These layers and other audio elements are exposed by the spectator using augmented reality as they interact with the main work.