Let art inspire you to find your ‘phygital’

With a spirit of exploration, Amrita Sethi left her job and became an artist. Today her art is ‘phygital’, and she inspires businesses to do the same.
A brightly coloured illustration on a white background. Among the stylistic elements are the masked face of a blue-lipped person, A Canon lens and camera, a paintbrush covered in paint and the words “inspiring a world of change”.
MAI YOUSSEF HEADSHOT Mai Youssef Corporate Communications and Marketing Services Director – Africa, Middle East and Turkey

"So, I've taken the digital art physical – and that's now a phygital artwork. And, by the way, that's a new word. It's a thing now.”

Where we are, blending online and offline, is like peeking round the corner at the near future. We can feel the potential of a mixed reality world – it’s coming. And, as always, art blazes the trail into the space between times, showing us the way. In the UAE, Amrita Sethi creates art that captures sound and concept, then she lets the viewer into a secret world that’s built within it.
As seekers of possibility and translators of culture, now is a fascinating time to be an artist. It was surely no accident that world of NFTs reached the mainstream via their swift adoption in the art world. After all, the opportunities to reach a global audience were absolutely irresistible. Amrita Sethi was the first artist in the UAE to embrace the NFT and her early adoption – and the risk she took in doing so – has propelled her to fame in the space. She gave up her job in multinational finance to become an artist, recognising that her ‘SoundBYTEs’ had real potential in a world that is now on familiar terms with augmented and virtual realities. At the beginning of her career as an NFT artist, she used the visual soundwave of a word (spoken into a voice recorder) as the basis for pieces of static digital art, which she then sold on Terra Virtua, OpenSea and Makersplace. But this was only the beginning of her journey.

A brightly coloured illustration on a white background. Among the stylistic elements are drawings of Canon lenses, a paintbrush, Japanese lettering, a black image of a person operating a film camera, the words ‘reach’ and ‘rethink’ depictions of buildings, hearts and paint splashes. On the right is a QR code.

Canon Middle East & Turkey commissioned Amrita to create a piece of artwork that reflected the goals of partners for 2023. By scanning the QR code, you can watch the piece come to life in Instagram.

“For me, the only thing constant in life is change,” says Amrita. And this means that her work is constantly developing, often in line with technology as it becomes available to meet her vision of her work. Not long after her first foray into NFT SoundBYTES, she began to animate her soundwaves, weaving the original audio into the designs. The first of these was WTNFT?! (What the NFT?!), which sold for a staggering $102,000. But sometimes you can be too progressive, and she noted that people still want to be able to engage with art in the real world, so she began to look at her process slightly differently. “When NFT's came, I actually stopped selling my physical art, because I wanted to understand people's relationships with NFTs,” she recalls. “But then I realised that that people were struggling there. So, then I've gone back to creating the ‘phygital’, which made me create the augmented reality and the virtual reality experiences.” However, it is obvious that working to join the hands of digital and physical space is what excites her most.
A great example of her ambition in creating phygital media came in the form of a 20 by 15 metre AR NFT mural, which was featured at Expo 2020 Dubai. She recorded the words “Future NFT Dubai” and used the resultant soundwave to inspire the futuristic artwork. Scanning the QR code (which sits next to her signature), adds a new Augmented Reality dimension to the artwork in Instagram, which can be posted to Instagram stories. It’s a multi-dimensional approach that connects two worlds in which Canon are very much a part of and this excited Canon Middle East & Turkey, who invited Amrita to join a special edition of their popular Frontiers of Innovation series. “A Glimpse of what’s possible – the evolution of new business into the new world” saw her joined by Dr Jane Thomason, a thought leader and Futurist, and Baha Hamadi of the Deep Knowledge Group. In a panel discussion, they talked about the influence and impact of the metaverse on the evolution of customers and businesses in the future.

A stage, photographed from above and behind the audience. Four people sit on chairs on the stage beside a huge 3D Canon logo and a painting on an easel. Behind them is a screen showing photos of three of the people on the chairs. Next to their images are the words, “Glimpse into the future. The evolution of business in the new world.”

Canon Partners from across the Middle East and Turkey enjoyed this special live edition of the popular ‘Frontiers of Innovation’, where thought leaders discuss the latest trends, technologies and issues affecting the world of business.

For this event, which was also part of a Canon MET Partner Conference, Amrita was commissioned to create a piece of artwork around ‘rethink’, ‘revive’ and ‘reach’ – three key words which partners were encouraged to embrace as they look to engage with customers in this new age of digital transformation. Presented on stage as both a physical piece (printed on the Canon Arizona 1380 XT), as well as shown on-screen, Amrita recorded the word ‘rethink’ and created a piece of art in her signature style that explores Canon with imaging visuals from the world of print and photography.
“So, everybody take out their phones, please.”
Of course, it would be deeply remiss not to treat the audience to a chance to immerse themselves fully in Amrita’s art, so the assembled partners were asked to raise their phones and scan the on-screen QR code, built into the design, and immerse themselves in her multimedia artwork from the comfort of their seats. She also gave each partner a t-shirt which turns them into a walking AR artwork.
Connecting the world of print and AR in this way presents a holistic multimedia view of something which is all too often perceived as ‘traditional media’, when nothing could be further from the truth. As Amrita herself has observed, humans still want to see physical media and perceive value in it and businesses do not have to choose a team, especially those for which real world utility is their normal. It is better to ‘rethink’, ‘revive’ and ‘reach’ – like Amrita, who sees the online world as a new marketplace, a means to reach more people, a place that opens opportunities and helps her to learn more about the way she wants to create art and do business. History teaches us that where artists go, the rest of us soon follow.

Canon Conference Panel Discussion
Mai Youssef Corporate Communications and Marketing Services Director – Africa, Middle East and Turkey

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