From the 17th to 18th century, there was a big change in the art world of France. The lighting and chiaroscuro techniques carried over from influences of the Renaissance, and to an extent so did the subject matter. What really caused the paradigm shift was the way in which artists began using perspective. They transitioned from portraits to scenic depictions. The viewer became an observer of a narrative, a part of the action themselves. My Immersive Media Professor gave us a brief history lesson on this entrance of immersion into the world of painting, and one quote in particular stuck with me long after the lecture. He recounted the way Diderot described the painters’ growing desire in the early 18th century: to picture characters in their own world, a “closed system” depicted in a “non-existence of the beholder” (Designing Media Studio). This idea has given way to a new medium- collaborative and immersive art. We now have the technology to envelop onlookers in a new world, an entirely artistically designed space. There are several levels of immersion when it comes to art exhibits, and I plan on diving into both the virtual lens and physical one.
We all know of the extraordinary capabilities of VR when it comes to games, but it can be equally as engaging to observe art through Virtual Reality. There are several exclusively VR museums popping up, which allow visitors to interact with art in completely new ways. For example, Dali17 allows users to walk through or into paintings, and become a part of them (West). There are also 360 VR versions of existing art museums like the MET and the Louvre, which just serve as modes of democratizing these one-of-a-kind experiences, allowing people from all walks of life to enjoy, even if it’s just through the Google Cardboard headset while they sit on the couch of their living room. Besides museums, there are entire art pieces made to be experienced in VR. One great example is In The Eyes Of The Animals by Marshmallow Laser Feast, which takes the viewer on a journey, growing as a sapling in the middle of a forest, into a tree (The Space). The impact of this type of art goes beyond that of many traditional forms. The user is better able to feel the emotions emulating from a piece because they have become a part of it. In a way, they have stakes in the experience, and are therefore more likely to take something away from it.
Immersive Media isn’t strictly digital, though. For some forms of art, entirely virtual worlds do not convey the artist’s message effectively. Many pieces are built around a physical space, augmented with the help of technology to really one in on that immersive element. One well-known example is the Van Gogh immersive experience that has been spreading across the nation. Visitors can step into rooms transformed into Van Gogh’s most famous works, so they can feel as though they are walking through a field of sunflowers or the city inside of “Starry Night”. These types of attractions are more popular across all age groups- it’s the right amount of familiarity and newness to attract even visitors who don’t understand immersive technologies.
Art has evolved immensely over the centuries humanity has existed on this planet. More and more, it seems that we are headed towards a future where we can be connected to the art itself, become a part of it, and be immersed in the feelings the artists are trying to convey. Immersive pieces and experiences, whether they be in the digital or physical realm, are the first step towards this future.