In the digital age, the line between the tangible and virtual has become increasingly blurred. Content creators exist primarily online, and the title of "artist" has taken on a variety of meanings and mediums accordingly. However, as we become accustomed to the process of modern art production, we may ask ourselves: Is there a way to revitalize the past?
An answer can be found in Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. Executive producer John Zaller describes the experience as a “360 degree sound and light spectacular, created with [and inspired by] the works of Vincent van Gogh. It’s a combination of museum–style exhibition and digital immersive experience.” The project has been plastered all over social media advertisements. It has popped up across several major cities such as New York City and Las Vegas, but originated in 2017 via showings across Europe. After several delays, the exhibition finally arrives here in Philly at the Tower Theater.
Since no original artwork of the post–impressionist painter hangs at the exhibition, the visit itself is quite different from the traditional museum excursion. Rather than strolling around and studying the greats, you become a part of the art itself. Alongside life–size physical recreations of work, such as 1888's The Bedroom, where you can step inside the world of the artist, there are prints of different paintings hung alongside placards detailing van Gogh’s history. Closet–sized rooms feature 3D projections of the artist’s different appearances throughout the years.
Of course, the heart of the project is a vast, open room adorned with floor cushions and visitors as they sit and marvel at their surroundings. This is the namesake immersive experience—cast all around the space is a light show that voyages through some of Van Gogh's most beloved and iconic artworks. For one fleeting moment, it’s The Starry Night (1889); the next, it’s Starry Night Over the Rhône (1888). The colors on the wall melt into one another to the tune of classical music, and it becomes difficult not to fall into a trance as the lights dance across everyone’s faces. This alone is worth the price of admission.
Once you finally break out of this reverie, the rest of the experience has more to offer. For those who seek to create art themselves, there is a room to interactively color in black–and–white sketches of van Gogh’s most famous paintings, as well as a virtual reality simulation where the artist walks alongside you in the French countryside as you watch the landscapes depicted in his work. It’s unsettlingly beautiful, and achieves a new layer of depth for even the most frequent museum–goer.
The Immersive Experience is a lovely visit for anyone looking to take a break from academics, or to try something unique when compared to anything they’ve been to before. It’s a romantic date spot, a charming time for friends and family, or even a nice pocket of solace for one to get away and just exist within and amongst the art. Students can snag discounted tickets for $25 and spend a morning gazing at the world through the infamous artist’s eyes.