Sunday, April 17, 2022

Beyond Van Gogh

“Beyond Van Gogh” is the same concept as Immersive Klimt which I wrote about a couple of months ago:

This version is touring as I hope Klimt will. Previously it could be seen for some months in Los Angeles. As we were lucky enough that it came to Albuquerque, I thought that I should have the “Experiential” experience which I gather is “de rigueur” these days. I can tell you, up front, that it is not like standing in front of the original in a museum, but after all it is not intended to be.

We had bought our timed tickets online in advance. When we arrived at the venue, an old factory building, we were instructed to use the facilities before entering, for there were no toilets inside. They put out mobile portoasans which were relatively luxurious with running water.

The women at the exhibition entry were extremely polite answering any questions and explaining that photography and video were encouraged as long a flash was not used. They also wisely explained that one should not lean against the curtains or screens for there were no walls behind them! The first scenes you see are models of small Dutch towns of the kind that van Gogh and his brother Theo came from with huge curlicue clouds suspended above.

Then there are several rows of information panels. Coming from the world of ¾ of a century ago, we are used to reading wall labels but here each written statement was a huge projection with details from van Gogh paintings. We learned, for instance, that Vincent’s brother, Theo, was a successful art dealer and businessman, and it was thanks to his support that Vincent, who had tried other work, was finally allowed to concentrate on his art, as well as other factoids and quotes.

After walking through some curtained blank spaces, you turn a corner and enter the main event. It is a huge open space filled with what, at first, looks like just large still images, until everything starts to move, or at least that is the perception. If, as a child, you enjoyed spinning around until you were dizzy, you will get extra pleasure out of a show like this. It is not so much the that the images on the walls fade in and out, stars twinkle and water undulates but that the brushstrokes dissolve on the floor in continuous moving colors. This contributes to the feeling of total immersion or, if you are susceptible, to vertigo.

There are a few benches, and some visitors sat on the floor, but most people walked around and turned around as all four sides of the space and central columns had images. One couple even decided to dance to the accompanying music.

I asked a gentleman sitting next to me on a bench if he had ever seen an original Van Gogh painting. He asked, “In a museum?” when I replied in the affirmative, he said he had. At one point in the changing projections he said, “Cool” and I suggested that he probably had not said that in front of the far smaller original, he agreed. He loved the space given within the portraits and believed that the sitters looked so real. An interesting reaction since, van Gogh was quoted as saying, “…don’t become a slave to your model…take a model and study it, for otherwise your inspiration won’t take on material form”. Clearly van Gogh had no wish to paint photographic images but rather to capture the essence of his subjects.

When I asked my benchmate for his overall impression of the experience he answered, “Ask me in a week or two”.

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