Immersed: Artists and Readers Respond to the Big van Gogh Show
Immersive Van Gogh –a multimedia experience of video projections and music built around the art of Vincent van Gogh—is on view in 20 cities, and in Cleveland through February 6, 2022. The spectacle created by Massimiliano Siccardi, produced by Show One Productions in collaboration with Starvox Entertainment, boasts 500,000 cubic feet of projections, 60,600 frames of video, and 90 million pixels. There are “Immersive Yoga” sessions sponsored by Lifeway Kefir. The gift shop, both online and in the physical space, offers socks, dog bowls, hats, jewelry, coasters, jar openers, key chains, and many other Van Gogh-inspired gifts. As soon as tickets went on sale, artists and others began to weigh in. Is it building audiences? Is it crass commercialism? Is it art? This is what we heard.
First, it was way too loud. Now let me explain: I worked as a mechanic for over 40 years, using air tools every day, and the sound volume was physically painful. … Second, the speakers were badly distorted from having been overtaxed making everything too loud. Third, while Van Gogh’s true genius —or at last a great deal of it — is tied to his ability to conjure a sense of motion from a static line, the presenters here chose instead to try to induce vertigo by means of a clever combination of blurry and unfocused moving images projected onto the walls and floors. All accompanied by music that was way too loud. – inventor, mechanic Sam Bell
I’m surprised at the snobbery of artists who I thought would be more open minded. I’m a k-5 art public school teacher. I went and it was a feast for the senses. A different kind of art. It felt reverent, not cartoonish at all. If something you painted ended up on socks and stuff you’d be pretty happy that your work was loved and wanted. Which Van Gogh was neither while he was alive. 58 million for balloon dog? Crazy, but what amazing talking points and you wouldn’t believe the joy it has brought my students. Art happens inside the viewer… Go ahead and feel something- it’s part of the experience. If you think the technology is stealing from something classic, you are not in touch with today’s world or our future artists. Snobbery in the art world is not helpful to anyone. –educator Sarah Galat
It could have been done so much better, especially for the cost. The loop went for 30 minutes: it needed to be at least 45. It took a little for one to get into it, then it was over. There could have been couches set up, or smaller, more intimate rooms to see it in. I liked it for what it was. I did not love it. Would not go again. Would not pay that much again. Though it was cool to see Van Goghs layering intensely. –artist Nancy Schwartz-Katz
I love the art of projection mapping, and this one was moving and well executed. The cost of the ticket would not have been a big deal, however, as a person who prides herself with being a gracious host with an attention to detail, this show fell through the cracks. Upon arrival, there was no real direction on where to go. Once Inside, it would have been nice to see the immersion from beginning to end. We had to stay to see the beginning. There were way too many people coming into the space. It made the circles for social distancing seem pointless. It would have been nice to move around and to see the exhibit through different angles but too many people did not make that possible. All in all, I was moved and cried a little during the show as I sat on my Van Gogh pillow and felt his life pass through my eyes and heart. I am still glad I got to go and experience his work in this way. – artist / DJ Laura Lenke (LoLo Knows)
My first impression when I entered was disappointment: the room was dark, but the images being projected were not as vivid and bright as I had imagined. I also had thought there would be multiple rooms to experience the different paintings, but instead it was shown in one big room. I also thought the ceiling would have images, but it did not. The more I watched, the more it grew on me, in a way similar to watching fireworks or a crackling fire. I ended up staying through four sessions, but then I started knowing the songs. The exit hallway funneled people into a huge room full of awkward merchandise featuring the art of Van Gogh. This was by far the worst part of the event. Walking through this cringeworthy menagerie of cheap, touristy, overpriced trinkets made me think Vincent would surely be appalled. I was. [And] watching people spend $100 and more for hats, keychains, dog bowls, socks and other peculiar items knowing they would never think to spend that same amount for actual art created by a living artist, was very disheartening. The show was pretty cool; the over-the top-commercialization of an artist’s work was not. – artist Beth Lynne
I definitely sympathize with those who think people should skip the Immersive van Gogh exhibit and see his actual paintings in person. However, I think that an experience like this could appeal to a new audience, one which is very tech savvy and regularly uses digital media (VR, online games, etc.). My hope is that the Immersive van Gogh exhibit will encourage new interest, not merely in Van Gogh’s work, but in the visual arts as a whole. – composer Christopher Auerbach-Brown
It’s easy to decide that accessibility is not valuable, easy to be negative about public domain images and commercial success. It’s harder to see with fresh eyes something ubiquitous. … The Van Gogh immersive experience is fraught with polarities. It’s old guard in a new space. The canon deconstructed into new media. A multi-sensory installation using benign images often emblazoned on a coffee cup but coming from an artist suffering the depths of multiple mental health diagnoses yet to be understood. The deconstructed experience makes his heavily commercialized public domain work simultaneously accessible and incomprehensible. The space is incredibly well suited to take any audience on a journey of discovery; what you thought you knew, what you don’t know, what cannot be known. And that is art; precious human expression. – writer Patricia Harusame Leebove
Cultural policing is a weird idea. Cultural reckoning, on the other hand, is long overdue. What do I mean? I’m not really sure. In response to the Van Gogh immersive experience, in a warehouse not far from my studio in the Hough neighborhood, I said that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge the cultural experience. Ticket prices start at about $40 for Van Gogh. CMA hosted Yoyoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors for $30. Which was better? It depends on what you’re looking for. A lot of people came and went to both. I did neither. We are what we eat. – artist Bruce Checefsky
I have zero desire to see this show. It seems exploitive and from what I see online, it looks to me like a glorified light show. It just doesn’t look that exciting to me. That said, one good thing might be that people who are not normally involved with art who attend might be enticed to go see actual Van Gogh paintings and other art at the art museum. – artist Jamie Morse
I have heard many critics of the Immersive Van Gogh installation say that you should buy art from living artists or see the real van Gogh paining’s at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Still, those suggestions are no comparison to the experience. You need to look at the immersive with 2021 eyes to see the use of today’s technology that places you into a historic master’s art. It is an entirely different type of experience. As an artist and graphic designer, I was given a lot of flak for going to the Immersive van Gogh installation. But what I appreciated was the seamless projection, how the designer used van Gogh’s paintings to create an entirely new way to understand his work, and the ability to relax into his work meditatively. Art has constantly changed throughout the decades and centuries, and I see immersive art as a way for people to step into the art and feel it. – designer Beth Ross Yurich
The Immersive Van Gogh exhibit was perplexing to me. I first learned of it via a highway billboard. I assumed the event was connected to our local arts community in some way, but on further investigation, wasn’t able to find there had been any consult with our local arts groups, institutions or artists. What community engagement plan was in place when decisions were being made to bring this art display to Cleveland? If none, why not? I’m curious who is responsible for initiating, sanctioning, or funding the display; I wasn’t able to find this information. Also curious about the marketing choice to not disclose the location until opening. Was there any consultation with the residents of the neighborhood in advance of choosing the location? — artist Meg Matko
Immersive Van Gogh feels far too Disneyesque for my taste. Possibly there is something in the experience that is beyond my expectations. When we have the opportunity to stand before an original Van Gogh, as we do at our free and amazing CMA, our minds do a pretty wonderful job filling in the before and after story. That’s fulfilling enough for this guy, as I prefer to control the narrative. It’s a collaborative experience for me, without needing Edison. – photographer Daniel Levin
Immersive Van Gogh is on view at 850 East 72nd Street in Cleveland through February 6, 2022. Tickets: $39.99 – $49.99. Go to VanGoghCleveland.com.
The Columbus Museum of Art presents Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and his Sources, on view November 12, 2021 – February 6, 2022. Go to Columbusmuseum.org.
The Cleveland Museum of Art presents There’s Nothing Like The Real Thing, a special installation of four [real] works by Vincent Van Gogh. on view in the Keithley Gallery, through December 5. Free. Go to Clevelandart.org.