Why immersive art installations can be deceptive in Denver – The Know
The slow but inevitable tyranny of “immersive experiences” is back.
Yes, we saw it coming. No, it’s not the end of the world. But it can be confusing. And insulting. And boring.
There is a bandwagon quality (with apologies to the Teenage Fanclub, who coined the term). It’s easy to laugh at blindfolded dinners and secret bars full of wasted twenty years. But what about the half-dozen “immersive” Vincent van Gogh installations in the works nationwide, including a dueling pair that heralded Denver dates this spring?
There are no original van Gogh paintings or prints in these 360 degree digital environments. Tickets start around $ 50.
To be fair, there’s hardly anything physical about a VR exhibit like “Carne y Arena” by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who started his US tour in Aurora last year. But the content was totally original, masterfully rendered and available nowhere else. You weren’t paying to see reproduced images, like you would on for-profit tours of the Sistine Chapel or Michelangelo’s Inventions, which have visited Denver in the past. All of them have been marketed as immersive.
I love the images reproduced. I love man-made spaces – theme parks, escape rooms, game boards. The films, one of the original immersive experiences, get an eternal pass. And, really, combining imaginative play with digital technology in the art world has made us rethink notions of value. Digital auctions for NFTs (non-fungible tokens or digital ownership certificates) and virtual galleries are just the gateway.
But whatever its creation, any event with a post qualifying itself as “immersive” should be viewed critically. Once a term of the avant-garde arts and theater scene, and heralded by visionaries such as Denver’s Lonnie Hanzon, it’s now a moth-eaten blanket, applied to silly, alcoholic pop-up stunts performing. 20 or 25 cities a year as many as millions. -productions in dollars and experiences on a low budget.
Some operate quickly and freely with copyrights to attract an integrated audience of film and literary franchises. Candlelight experiences and oddly named cocktail pranks are likely to return in droves this summer, with themed brunches and other click bait. Some have no local connection and hide behind publicists. They don’t advertise ticket prices or locations until they are sure to make a profit.
You can’t blame them. It is expensive and complex to organize even terrible touring shows. The music, film and theater industries also pre-sell products to the public, without being seen. Well done, obviously commercial shows can be transcendent. Especially if you are a fan of what they sell.
Denverites like me have embraced traveling exhibits based on global corporate brands such as “Star Wars and the Power of Costume” (at the Denver Art Museum) and “The Art of the Brick”, endorsed by Lego (Denver Museum). of Nature & Science). Smart curators have gradually moved away from high and low quality binaries, in turn increasing the revenues of their large nonprofits. They do a great job of setting the elaborate costumes and toy sculptures in context. As a fan and collector of pop culture, I also covet these artifacts as fetishized relics with totemic value, to paraphrase Denver critic Walter Chaw.
Plus, it’s fun. “Star Wars” and Legos free our imaginations. Although they have become modern religions for some, they are colorful diversions by design.
This is why Meow Wolf, the Santa Fe-based entertainment company, engages many progressive and God-honest artists and artisans to create their surreal environments. The quality is immediately apparent. The company’s Denver facility, which doesn’t have an official name but will open later this year, was preceded in February by the Omega Mart in Las Vegas. Trippy consumerist critic full of sculptures and interactive elements, Omega Mart costs $ 40-45 for admission and could become one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions.
Denver is more than ready for it. We also broke new ground with art-driven and socially distanced shows during the pandemic, some of which included virtual reality apps and experiences. The erosion of the physical and digital last year is reminiscent of some of the art world’s most sacred revolutions in terms of form and content.
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But we are still in a global pandemic. It takes something special to get us out, and even before all of that the competition for our entertainment dollars was fierce. We need to know what we’re getting into if we buy tickets for this immersive new art installation, in this venue they haven’t announced yet, which describes several dozen press releases I’ve received over the year. last.
When rude marketers co-opt a term, it becomes a corn husk in and of itself. That way, it’s easy, and wrong, to dismiss anything that identifies as immersive as a trend hunter (at best) or a cash grab (at second best). There is a staggering amount of creativity and technical expertise in translating van Gogh’s work into digital environments, as is the case in the emerging fields of LED art, 3D projection mapping and light shows by drone.
But intention matters. While van Gogh’s paintings are certainly art, trade shows don’t often benefit the city’s art community. Museums and local cultural institutions are generally nonprofits – many are in dire straits after a year with little or no income. Artists are in an even worse situation. The city’s galleries and experimental collectives, but also co-ops and popular pop-ups (like the incredible Denver Black Girls Museum), will have to work overtime to keep up the momentum.
It’s tempting to think that these things can coexist peacefully with intermediate shows like “Distortions Monster World,” a for-profit exhibition of movie monsters and spooky creations from Greeley’s Distortions Unlimited. The inaugural exhibit at the Denver pavilions earlier this year will soon make way for another location, Westword reported. But is it an “art installation”, as its website proclaims? Or is it just a Meow Wolf scam, without the blink of an eye? A museum of latex wax?
It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game to support local businesses or creatives. Prismajic’s pioneering and fearless shows (“Shiki Dreams”, “Natura Obscura”) and haunted houses that portray the terrors of the binary (“No Place to Go”) do fascinating things without big budgets, as do Control Group, Rainbow Militia and Buntport (and too many others to mention).
You can support these things or not support them. It won’t make you a good or a bad person. But when “immersion” is invoked, think carefully about the type of experience you are entering – and propagating.
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