GIVEN THE hyperstimulated life we live, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a simple stroll through an art museum isn’t quite enough.
Enter the immersive installation. Sometimes it’s a show dedicated to beloved paintings translated digitally and projected in such a large and commanding way that we can feel we are stepping into them. Then there are the installations that are high-tech, kinetic light shows, such as the ones devised by the American firm Artechouse, with exhibit spaces in New York, Washington DC and Miami Beach. Its current triumvirate of shows, called Submerges by the creators, explore the Earth, the Sky and the Oceans, and all celebrate Classic Blue, the Pantone Color of the Year for 2020. (Blue promises peace and tranquility, which the Artechouse folks acknowledge we could all use round about now, assuming we’re willing to fork out $24 for admission.)
In France, Culturespaces, a museum foundation, has recaptured unused or little used spaces—an abandoned quarry here, an old foundry there—and has reimagined them as art spaces. These are the exhibits of the “real art” variety, wherein paintings and motifs projected on walls dwarf the visitors and surround them with color.
(Here’s where it helps to use extremely well-known images. The Chagall installation I visited in the South of France in 2016 featured the artist’s dream-like images arriving and disappearing, floating around overhead, with no explanatory material, no reference points. To make things more confusing, there was an adjacent “secondary” exhibit of images from “Alice in Wonderland” popping in and out, sliding up the wall, then disappearing. True, they both related to dream sequences and presumably the ephemeral nature of same, but printed materials [that could be read in the dark!] might have provided the connections. Nonetheless, the physical reaction to being overwhelmed by art was substantial.)
“Regular” museums have upped the adrenaline too, offering spectacles such as, in 2017, the Hirshhorn Museum’s 50-year retrospective of 91-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama with six of her “Infinity Mirror” rooms . . . and lots of polka dots. The National Building Museum, also in DC, has had regular crowd-pleasing installations—among others, “Lawn,” “Icebergs” and “The Beach,” featuring a pool filled with thousands of recyclable plastic balls for visitors to flail around in.
These don’t seem to be very “serious” approaches to art, but there is an integrity to their execution. And it’s not as though art has always been about serious purpose and scholarship. Over the millennia, it has been variously totemic, boastful, solemn, sacred (as long as the painter’s patrons were depicted down in front), playful, vituperative and, well, lots more adjectives. So add “immersive” to the list.
Artechouse Miami, “Aqueous,” through April 14, 2021. miami.artechouse.com.
Artechouse New York, “Celestial,” ongoing. artechouse.com.
Artechouse DC, “Cristalline,” through January 3, 2021. dc.artechouse.com.
Culturespaces, exhibits closed because of Covid-19 until December 1, 2020. culturespaces.com.