In light of Covid, which shut down live music, there has been much discussion about how to bring the live act, venue and gig-goers together without either of them being physically together. Melody VR has allowed listeners to view 360° live gig experiences.
In 2020, the Melody VR Wireless Connect virtual festival was viewed by 132,000 people. Musicians have also enjoyed success by performing in video games. For example, a Lil Nas X concert via the Roblox online game platform was attended by 33 million individuals, whilst a Travis Scott gig hosted by Epic Games received 45.8 million viewers. The same ideas have been applied to this Van Gogh immersive experience accompanied by a commissioned soundtrack which has already been attended by almost one million people from Beijing, Barcelona and New York. The musicians selected to provide songs for Van Gogh’s artworks have included Thom Yorke (Radiohead) and Édith Paith.
This immersive experience spotted the first two things people immediately associate with Van Gogh: Sunflowers and the night sky to his work Starry Night (which is also the opening line to Don McLean’s song about Vincent). 3D sunflowers amidst the Starry Night background festooned the entrance. The first section is a virtual museum of his works arranged via theme amidst dark, black backgrounds.
For instance, all of Vincent’s eleven sunflower paintings (including the one lost in World War Two) are brought together with explanations, how he studied vases along with a real-life replica of his actual bedroom which he painted when he was living in Arles in the south of France. One also discovers how Japanese art inspired Van Gogh, the symbolism of cypress trees which he often painted, along with a theory advocated by Kazunori Asada that Vincent may have been colour blind.
Whilst regular art gallery visitors will undoubtedly be impressed with the reconstruction of Vincent’s bedroom, they will be less impressed with the flat grainy images of many of the paintings. Van Gogh’s lavish use of thick brushstrokes is not visible. However, these thick brushes do come to life if one takes pictures of them via their smartphone. For many gig-goers, the live experience is ruined if it is viewed through a smartphone lens throughout. Many regular art gallery attendees would also agree. However, with this immersive experience, viewing through a smartphone is the only way to actually appreciate the paintings in the same way the actual ones are depicted in museums and private collections.
Not included in all ticket purchase options, but an essential part of this experience is the 360° virtual reality experience which takes you through the places Van Gogh travelled to and painted in the last few years of his life. The aim is to make you feel alone in Van Gogh’s world, in which he drew inspiration for his most famous works. Whilst there is seldom a grainy image, some noise-cancelling technology would be advantageous for one can hear verbatim other people nearby aweing away in their Van Gogh headset experiences.
The final part of the immersive experience is where the commissioned soundtrack can be heard amidst the digital depiction of over 300 Van Gogh’s works across a surrounding wall of screens. Van Gogh’s taciturn temperament is addressed along with his time in a psychiatric asylum. One can stand, but if one can find a rug or a Starry Night themed deck chair to view this hauntingly beautiful production and soundscape, the experience will be greater. Whilst it’s not guaranteed that one will learn more about Van Gogh’s paintings or his mindset (or that any young children won't get bored), viewers will nonetheless be elatedly ensnared.
Whatever the legacy of Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience will be, it will be remembered as one of the forerunners which made having and using a smartphone integral and sacrosanct to a live experience.
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