Are Immersive Art Exhibitions the New Trend?

Are Immersive Art Exhibitions the New Trend

Can we really bring generations together with a windy and virtual Starry Night? 

For many, museums and exhibitions are an escape from reality. However, these places have been experiencing an all-time low visitation rate due to Covid-19. Owing to social distancing norms and closures, going to a museum was just not always possible. To address that, museums took to virtual reality (VR).

For instance, the Louvre initiated a VR project, “Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass”, to boost footfall. Given that most of the people who visit the Louvre do so to view the Mona Lisa painting, the project allowed visitors to engage with the artwork on a personal level. It was a refreshing way to interact with art, one that certainly caught the world’s attention.

So, how is technology making arts and exhibitions the talk of the town again? Let’s find out.

But first, have you heard of the Van Gogh immersive exhibition? 

The immersive Van Gogh exhibit in Chicago is designed based on the paintings of the renowned Dutch artist. His works have been very influential and have grown in popularity over the years. To let the audience understand Van Gogh and his art in depth, the immersive experience provides a firsthand encounter of motions that emphasize “highlighted brushstrokes, details and color”.

The iconic painting “Starry Night”, for instance, vividly illustrates the artist’s internal turmoil and devastation from the loneliness he experienced when he was in the asylum. The use of projections and animations in the exhibition allows the audience to witness the emotions of each brushstroke from Gogh’s point of view. 

So, how are immersive exhibitions different from traditional museums?

Both immersive exhibitions and traditional museums are assets that preserve the essence of our history. Both these institutions are irreplaceable as they represent the cultural identity of a social group. They, therefore, are essential to society.

While museums aim to understand an artist, immersive exhibitions are all about “self-obliteration” (merging oneself with the universe). Immersive exhibits are platforms for emotional outlets, allowing you to sympathize and interact with the paintings. Giving way to the moving stars or sitting under the tree of the projected painting help the audience detach from the real world and submerge themselves into the artist’s world. 

Thanks to the advancing technology, we now have more ways to interact and learn about artworks than by just looking at them. Immersive art makes use of the technological advancements of modern society to merge the past with the present and, in doing so, bring various communities together.

For instance, the use of augmented reality (AR) and VR as well as other technologies, like holography (the process of producing virtual three-dimensional images), can attract a bigger audience by providing a more lifelike representation of the work. With that, audiences can have more than just a glimpse of the artwork from afar. 

Do you want to know why Van Gogh loves the Mulberry tree so much? Immersive art engages the audience by catering to their senses of sight, hearing and touch. It introduces art as a kind of intellectual experience. From that, the projection of the tree in Van Gogh’s perspective will quench your thirst for knowledge with a modern answer. 

Furthermore, the audience can be in sync with the emotional turmoil of the artist and, thus, empathize with them. Immersive exhibitions stimulate thoughts and feelings by projecting the works of artists to surround the audience. The integration of the minds of the audience with the artwork helps the visitors envision the process of creation and, eventually, build an emotional bond with the artist. 

In short, the main difference between museums and immersive exhibitions is the interactions. Visiting museums allows the audience to appreciate the works of artists. On the other hand, immersive exhibitions provide audiences with the space to get into the minds of the artists. For many, art may seem too sophisticated; but with modern technology, it can connect people from all walks of life even more seamlessly and diversify the definition of art.

The dark side of immersive art 

Social media, such as Instagram or Twitter, has become the main source of communication and promotion. After visiting exhibitions, people usually like to post pictures or videos they took during the exhibition. Immersive art companies can gain profit and popularity with user-generated content, as in the text, photos and videos that users post on online platforms.

However, displaying the artwork on social media not only alters the whole purpose of art exhibitions more into a money-making business, but it is also disrespectful to artworks and artists because the cultural value of their work is degraded. Instead of appreciating renowned art pieces, audiences pay to get in the exhibitions for a selfie. 

Another downside of immersive art is that it can distort the work’s original expression. Take “Starry Night” for example. The Impasto technique (Van Gogh’s distinguishable technique of paint thickly laid on a surface) brings the still image that Van Gogh sees into life. However, the projection of the work destroys the original expression

Some people claim that the Van Gogh exhibition is “not worth the price” since it only comprises projections of the original pieces of art. According to them, the Van Gogh exhibition’s target audience is children. Visitors may feel as if they have entered a children’s book with the kaleidoscope theme as the main feature. Also, they find the exhibition not inclusive enough, as it does not consider those who just wanted to see the physical artwork instead of the projections. In a nutshell, immersive exhibitions do not give aficionados the space to contemplate a painting. 

Immersive exhibitions: the trend du jour in the art world?

One of the main reasons for the rise of immersive exhibitions is the lockdowns imposed in some countries and social distancing measures. Covid-19 posed a threat to the leisure activities of people, and governmental measures have limited the flow of interactions. With immersive exhibitions, instead of crowding around a painting, people can experience artwork while practicing social distancing. After all, people are social beings who crave connection and new experiences, and that’s perhaps why immersive exhibitions have become a popular source of sensory stimulation, especially for those who have had enough of lockdowns and isolation. 

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Header image courtesy of Pexels

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