I recently attended the Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Exhibit in the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park and I was not disappointed! As the viewer, you are immersed in the projected images you experience above, below, to the sides—all around you. Some artwork is even projected onto your body. You and your fellow spectators become part of the images that magically flow, hover, vanish, and reform. This emerging art form of wall and floor projection does not replace traditional exhibitions and art books, but indeed goes beyond them.
The images were taken from 300 Van Gogh pieces. The first section of the exhibition contains illuminated panels with information about Van Gogh’s life and career to help contextualize his work.
The second section is a large room with high ceilings and two large windows on either side. Streams of images constantly pour down the walls and onto the floor. Within this animated stream are familiar bits and pieces from his better-known works. A self-portrait of the artist appeared from time to time, as if observing the audience.
The third section is the principal part of the exhibition. The dimensions are huge in the rectangular space that felt as spacious as a football field. A combination of flowing and static images are projected onto the 30-feet high walls, the floor, and three columns. Most people walked, stood, or sat on the floor or in a chair. Many children moved freely, running, jumping, and often dancing, rejoicing in the colours and images in motion. Soundtrack selections, ranging from light classical to wordless vocalization to a Beatles instrumental, helped to further animate the show.
The exhibition was presented in themes, such as landscapes, portraits, still lifes, or flowers on a loop that lasted for about half an hour. Some images were projected onto frames while others flowed across the many surfaces, sometimes simultaneously.
Minimal animation on static images was used effectively. Portraits blinked, crows flew over the wheat fields, windmills turned, and reflections in the water shimmered. My favourite sequence featured three or more overlapping layers of flowers cascading over the walls and floors, not only covering but enveloping me. The audience loved sequences displaying “starry night” images.
The exhibition was created in Montreal by Normal Studio using state-of-the-art projection technology. It premiered in Miami on April 15 and has travelled to several U.S. cities. The exhibition is appearing simultaneously in other U.S. cities as well as in Calgary, and will appear in more locations later in the summer.
If you are interested in an intense and illuminating experience that allows you to “become part of the art” you may like this exhibit. Measures have been taken to ensure safety during COVID-19.
Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, presented by RBC, runs until Sept. 16 at the Aberdeen Pavilion, seven days a week. For more information and to purchase tickets, check out their website.