The immersive Van Gogh brings the painter’s last moments in Denver to life
When planning the North American Exhibition of Immersive Van Gogh, artistic director Massimiliano Siccardi told producer Corey Ross he wanted to “get a vision of what could have happened before Van Gogh’s eyes in the moments before his death”.
In the first few minutes of Immersive Van Gogh, a disturbing score, composed and curated by Luca Longobardi, rises as almost every square inch of the exhibition space turns into something akin to static television. Van Gogh’s signature, scrawled in red, opens and closes the show. A self-portrait of the artist materializes alongside sketches of a fly; the experience is something akin to the evil VHS tape of The ring.
Immersive Van Gogh, which opened on September 30 in Denver, hails from France in a slightly different iteration, also co-created by Siccardi and Longobardi, called “Van Gogh, the Star Night”. It included many of the same paintings as this new exhibit, but Siccardi wanted to create “something more daring … more psychological for America,” says Ross.
The North American exhibitions will be held in 21 cities in total by January of next year and have already opened in cities like Toronto, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Denver is the twelfth city to open, but only the first to do so on time, Ross points out.
The location of the Denver exhibit – Lighthouse Immersive Denver at 3900 Elati Street – might surprise visitors, as it still functions in part as Assembly Student Living. Indeed, the exhibition space transformed the building’s basketball court into a two-room gallery. This is the third basketball court that Lighthouse has used for Van Gogh in the USA
“We quickly learned from Massimiliano that touring isn’t the way it’s done,” says Ross. Due to the multi-million dollar technology and the intensive nature of the exhibit construction, each city has had an immersive public space created or modified specifically for the exhibit.
For around forty minutes, spectators stroll through 400 of the artist’s paintings exhibited via projectors and floor-to-ceiling screens. But the immersion doesn’t stop there. Hamilton together designer David Korins, an addition to the creative team specifically for American shows, created highlights sculptures that can be touched and even stepped on, in some cases. These include a stalagmite-like arch and circular platform surrounded by a curved wall of mirrors, which is sure to be the centerpiece of Instagram posts.
“On the one hand, we see art, so there’s an element of art exhibit here,” Ross said. “Technically what you’re going to see is an animated film. The third part is the part where you’re free to walk around, explore. We’re not competing with an art exhibit at all.”
The musical tone of the installation oscillates between deep and deadly strings, ethereal choirs and pop music. “No, I Don’t Regret Nothing” by Edith Piaf, which was used to wake people up in the 2010 Christopher Nolan film Creation, punctuates a landscape of sunrise and sunset in a farming village. Other scenes focus on sunflowers, perhaps van Gogh’s second most iconic subject, as well as household items like chairs and beds. And of course, every detail of “The Starry Night” is magnified and set in motion around the audience. In a way, the experience feels like a dream, sometimes frightening and sometimes joyful, sometimes dead.
“In the end, this is not an omnibus of van Gogh paintings that you can see. … [The 400 paintings] became the raw material for Massimiliano Siccardi to separate, to deconstruct, to animate ”, explains Ross. “Almost like a music DJ who takes a piece of music from one song and maybe a piece from another song, then puts a drumbeat between it and a string section, and it becomes a new piece of music.” – that’s what I see in Massimiliano’s work. “
The Denver Edition of Immersive Van Gogh The exhibit is on view until February 6, 2022 at 3900 Elati Street. Tickets, starting at $ 39.99, and more information are available on the Immersive Van Gogh Denver website.