IMMERSIVE.WORLD

S1 E2 | FULL EPISODE

Digital Galleries

The increasing digital evolution of the visual arts is giving rise to new electronic galleries. In this episode, IMMERSIVE.WORLD explores Artechouse, a digital gallery with locations in Washington DC, New York and Miami; and Super Real, a New York-based project that elevates videomapping to high art. The featured works are interactive, inviting the public to participate in the final piece.

AIRED: February 26, 2020 | 0:27:58
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TRANSCRIPT

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van Sasse van Ysselt: People used to gather around campfires.

They used to tell stories.

That was their form of entertainment.

It was bringing people together.

We think people have always been drawn to immersive experiences.

We've had them, and we kind of lost them.

When we were walking barefoot in the forest,

every step we took was fraught with adventure, right?

You don't know what you were going to step on.

You had to really pay attention.

You had to listen to the animals around you.

You had to listen to the weather, the breeze.

You had to be aware of all this stimulation,

and physically, that's what we're set up to do

is take in all this stimulation.

And now we live in --

doesn't even have to be a city,

but just a town, any built environment,

and we don't have all that stimulation,

but yet we still -- we're there.

We're craving it. We want it.

So if we can create -- or any artist can create

a truly immersive environment

where there's a whole bunch of stimulation

that kind of envelopes you, fills your field of view,

fills what you hear.

You know, that, I think, speaks

to this craving that all of us have.

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van Sasse van Ysselt: We're kind of breaking that wall

between you're not viewing it,

you're not passive, but you're becoming

an active member of the installation.

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My partner, Lorne, and I, in the late '70s,

we got together, and we started building

some of the world's first interactive video systems,

'cause we were always talking about interaction

and the nature of how people interact with their environment

and with technology.

"Interactive" is used to mean a lot of different things.

In a way, you could think of interactivity

as a conversation between a person and a thing.

Lorne and I, we start from interaction.

"Okay, what can we do

that's going to make people feel a certain way?"

And then we figure out the technology and the visual

and sound to interact with to create that feeling.

So in a way, our medium is interaction itself.

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This installation right here at ARTECHOUSE,

we have this incredible space here.

It's 270 degrees of projected wall that wrap around you.

This is an incredible space,

and what we've been able to do in this space

is to create an interactive environment

where a person can point at a spot on a wall

that is 40 feet away from them and 20 feet in the air,

and they can make something happen,

and then they can move.

They can move that thing all the way across this entire space.

And as far as we know,

that has never happened on the planet Earth before.

Without anything, no cellphone, no head-mounted device,

no visors, nothing in their hand.

They just lift up their finger,

they point, and they make something beautiful happen.

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"Cherry Blossom Dream" is our seasonal installation,

and it's a celebration of spring.

We invited three artists groups and asked them

to do some interactive playful installations.

We're currently sitting in "Sakura Yume."

Saiff: Our goal was to give people little moments of joy,

little strings of moments of joy,

that you do something and something happens,

that you're in this space,

and you have just these little, tiny surprises,

and you might even not realize.

You know, they're not shocks, but they're just like, "Oh, oh."

Galperina: This flower specifically, it blooms,

and it's very quickly fades, and in Japanese culture,

hanami is a tradition of flower watching or flower viewing,

and it is that they contemplate on the beautiful,

ephemeral nature of this blossom.

What makes it unique is that the artwork that surrounds you

or that you're looking at

invites you to become a part of it.

It invites you to be creative,

invites you to play, invites you to contemplate.

It really becomes an immersive and participatory experience.

It's not just something you're observing from the side.

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To the left of this main space is our lantern alley.

This was inspired by Japanese lantern alley,

and it actually leads you to the next space, which is blue.

This is an interactive experience

that plays out over the table.

They are traditional Japanese styles.

The installation responds to the visitor's hand movement

or of anything that really moves in the space above the table,

and the visitors can bring color or in some cases butterflies

and visuals of Japanese ink to the space.

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ARTECHOUSE really are the intersection

of art and technology.

Technology enables the artist

and gives them the power to do more,

to explore new things,

to invite the visitor into becoming a part of the artwork,

to create with them, and to play with the work.

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Saiff: It seems to be a growing trend

that people value experiences more than things,

and if you look at the art world,

I mean, there's been people working on experiential art

for decades and decades and decades,

but they're starting --

it's starting to become more prominent.

20 years ago, I don't know

if crowds would've been ready for that,

so the world is getting more ready

for this kind of experiential art,

and experiential artists are feeling more free.

We see spaces such as museum commissions for museums,

commissions for public spaces,

commissions for commercial environments,

but not necessarily for a commercial art,

but for, you know, for fine art, fine experiential art as a draw,

as, like, someone would put a sculpture

in a commercial environment

or in the lobby of a big office building in a major city.

Instead of a mural, they would have an interactive experience.

It's a very exciting time to be working in this stuff,

very exciting.

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Lejuwaan: People today are bored.

Technology has come a long way,

and it just takes a lot more production value and shock

and awe in order to make someone feel something,

especially with the Internet.

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We're combining very futuristic,

technological immersive art and immersive theater,

so we have a background of these amazing art installations,

lasers, projection mapping, 3-D sound, stuff like that,

and then within that, we have a narrative and a story

and 15 actors that are taking you through the experience.

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I was going to Burning Man for several years

and seeing all these amazing art pieces out there

that I had never seen anywhere else before

and realized that most people would never see them

because they would never come out to Burning Man.

So the thought was just to bring back some of those

art pieces to New York City

and have kind of like a museum from the future, so to speak,

and then I saw "Sleep No More" and "Then She Fell"

and other immersive theater pieces and thought,

"Wow, this could be a whole lot more interesting."

If we have a narrative and a story, we could actually --

instead of them just being, like, siloed, individual pieces,

we can tie them together and create this whole world

that people can step into.

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So the narrative actually came from just one thing.

It was these masks that we found.

They're these really intricate laser-cut masks

by this artist named Dan Schwab,

and they kind of looked alien-like,

so we came up with this story where there's a portal

to another dimension that's appeared by Penn Station,

and there's a secret, covert government agency

you've never heard of called Z-14,

and they're responsible for figuring out

what's on the other side,

so you, the volunteer, are going into this portal,

which is actually a 30-foot geodesic dome,

and going through

basically like several wormholes in this dome show,

and you get dumped out on the other side,

and then there's an alien species there with these masks,

and the narrative is that they have --

they're a hive-mind species.

They're completely mentally synced, and we're not,

and they found out about humanity,

and they became super curious because all they've ever known

is complete sync and unison,

and we're so separate and disjointed,

and they want to know how we even function.

Christopher Schardt, he has a piece here

called "Parastella."

If you can imagine a giant helicopter -- helicopter blades

but with LEDs, so he redesigned the animations on it,

and it's a 20x20 circle of LEDs,

and everyone's lying underneath them on bean bags.

You just get completely lost in these animations.

It's a new experience for a lot of people

that don't take a lot of time to just do nothing

and just get totally absorbed in something.

It's very meditative kind of automatically,

and it blows people away.

The sound is not actually synced with it, but it's funny.

It kind of naturally syncs up in magical moments,

and you really never see the same thing twice

because you have, say, a 30-minute soundtrack

and then 150 different animations.

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The other one that's similar and that you can get lost in it

for 20 minutes, we internally call it the laser forest

'cause that's the best way to describe it.

It's actually called "The Day We Left Field."

It's by a Russian artist collective called Tundra.

It's a giant room. It's a 40x20 room.

It has some very high-powered laser projectors

in every corner, like, straight up lasers,

and then there are 10,000 pieces of fake foliage

that are spread evenly on the ceiling,

and these lasers are cascading light across all of them,

so it's evenly distributed,

and it kind of looks like fiber-optic

because they go up and down and, like, left and right,

and it lights up just the sliver of the foliage,

and it kind of feels like you're, like, underwater

or, like, kind of, like, maybe standing above a forest

that is shifting in different colors and formations,

and it's all driven by sound.

I hope the narrative does a lot of heavy lifting,

the fact that we have performers in the space

and there's a story give a little bit of a clue

that we're doing something more here

than just creating a good backdrop for photos.

These are serious, serious undertakings,

and then also we don't allow phones.

Just for you personally, if you have that crutch of,

you know, check your e-mail,

take a photo, your mind is elsewhere,

and we really want people to be able to drop in

and be present in this experience,

and I think that's a big part

of why it's been successful and people have liked it,

'cause it's so different from everything else out there,

but interestingly enough, like, we've had friction there.

We still have people coming expecting it

to be an Instagram museum,

and I've seen, like, experiences ruined

because of the expectation of getting that photo

and then not being able to.

It's been interesting to see people not be able to,

like, let go of that and see, like,

no, this is actually better.

This is -- you can be present here.

You can do a lot more here than just take a photo.

Man: Volunteers, please proceed down to Z-14 deck.

[ Indistinct conversations ]

Lejuwaan: I think in the near future

that the technology side of this,

like LEDs and projection mapping,

that's just going to be the new normal,

just like moving from whatever was before oil paints

to oil paints and beyond

and then, like, digital forms of art.

I don't think it's actually the technology

that makes this immersive.

I think it's the story.

I think that's a huge part of the immersive experience

is bringing people together, and that's actually something

that we've leaned into very hard at Zero Space.

One of the pathways you can go down in our experience

is actually a series of missions that you've given by the agents

that are specifically designed to help you connect

with strangers, so we've had tons of stories,

even in our first month, of people

making new friends in the experience.

Something that we really optimize for here

is when one-on-one experiences with our actors.

That's really the -- that's what you want.

That's the powerful experience that's, like,

potentially very uncomfortable,

and it probably is for a lot of people,

and that makes it a meaningful experience that you remember.

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Reilly: If we look at the history of entertainment,

entertainment was through the confines of a theater,

of an arena, of our television.

Then we went about our lives,

and we go through things in a mechanical fashion

from getting to and from work

to traveling through our day-to-day lives.

And I think more and more, from retail to airports,

transportation, public spaces is that we're understanding

that we can reinvent all of these experiences for them

to be less mechanical and enjoyable

and for it to be a certain form of entertainment.

We're looking at a lobby,

and all of a sudden, we're saying to ourselves,

"Well, what if this experience was actually fun?

What if we were actually engaging with people?"

Multimedia offers so many possibilities

of how you can do that in a unique way,

but also how it can evolve in a very dynamic way.

van Sasse van Ysselt: Moment Factory is

a multidisciplinary production company,

and we focus on making immersive experiences

and environments all around the world.

The main goal at Moment Factory, I guess,

is to use the technology

to create more emotional experiences

and to bring people together and create collective experiences

and not singular ones.

We really do focus on bringing that virtual-reality aspect

into a live-action situation where humans are together,

there's no masks or goggles,

and you're interacting with each other and the installation.

Reilly: The essence and the fabric of what Moment Factory does

is about creating human connections.

van Sasse van Ysselt: So I think each project is about defining the creative essence,

the emotion that we're trying to convey,

what we want people to feel,

and from there, we usually create, like,

a pyramid of technology that we need to accomplish that.

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Reilly: "SuperReal" is a 45-minute digital art exhibit

where people are transported through a immersive journey

that encompasses five digital worlds or dreams.

van Sasse van Ysselt: Guests are kind of invited

to enter and leave as they wish,

so there's no linear narrative to this experience,

which makes it very different.

They can discover five different environments.

We've created five very diverse, ambient-almost worlds,

which we like to kind of refer to as digital dreams.

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So there's a lot of little, like, optical illusions

embedded in the content and also how we create the storytelling,

even though it's not a linear story.

So, I directed one capsule

or one dream called "The Float Parade."

Let's say you're in this castle in the sky looking down on Earth

and how if there were no humans anymore

and have all of humanity was floating by you,

and then it explodes in one big parade.

Also kind of part of it was breaking the fourth wall

of the projection mapping because we build up,

it's super architectural.

it's very detailed, and then we make it all crumble,

and it's all just projecting everywhere,

and it's kind of wild and going all over the place,

and the balloons just pop.

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It's almost like you wanted to feel like

you're in the toy chest

of a child kind of grabbing things,

and it's creating this dream world,

and the balloon becomes a dinosaur.

There's a UFO.

It's supposed to be kind of somewhere

in between reality and dream.

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Reilly: When we looked at creating the five different dreams

that we have that encompass "SuperReal,"

we were really thinking about

how can we create a variety of tones and moods

that can evoke different emotions

throughout the entire experience...

...how we could create content and music

that blend together to really evoke these senses.

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Really, the idea and the inspiration

to create "SuperReal"

came from the space, from the building.

Cipriani 25 Broadway is a very unique,

historical landmark building,

and what we wanted to do was really take what we do,

so innovations and technology, and bring the building to life,

so we're basically making the walls talk and tell their story.

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van Sasse van Ysselt: So projection mapping

is, basically, they 3-D scan the entire architecture.

It's a landmark building, so it's very detailed.

There's a completely hand-painted dome, et cetera,

just lots and lots of architectural details,

so the whole building was scanned,

and then we outfitted it with 17 laser projectors.

We did it to completely transform the building,

so I think projection mapping kind of has

a connotation of being facade.

It's very frontal. This is different.

It's completely 360.

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Reilly: When you use technology such as projection mapping,

you're not hiding the walls.

We're highlighting.

We're using the architectural features

to create unique content and really transport

and blur the lines between reality and virtual reality.

van Sasse van Ysselt: When we added the mirror floor,

it creates a whole 'nother dimension,

so that's where it really becomes interesting

with how you change your perception in this space.

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[Thunder crashing ]

[Children shouting indistinctly ]

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Reilly: Everybody seems to find their own journey

and emotional connection and experience through "SuperReal,"

which is very exciting because it really shows

the power of what immersive experiences can be.

You can never be too old or too young

to come and interact with content and be immersed

and awed in an immersive environment.

van Sasse van Ysselt: The immersive experience is --

I think it's stemming from us just needing to be more active.

We're so used to looking at the phone.

It's kind of a siloed experience,

at's very solitary, and the digitalization needs to now

expand into our real world and create that whole new layer,

so I think we're drawn to these immersive experiences

because you can actually partake in it.

You can help create it.

You're an active role in that world,

physically, mentally, visually.

So, I mean, we're used to it now.

Like, the digital world is just expanding past the phone.

Reilly: More and more, we're seeing technology integrated

not just in the user experience

but as exhibits within themselves.

I think there's something very powerful

in being part of something.

When you go to a museum,

there is a disconnect with who we are as individuals,

and when you look at immersive experiences

where you're evolving from a passive participation

of appreciating something that might be thousands of years old

where you can actively participate

and, in many instances,

actually influence the outcome of this art,

which I think is very, very powerful.

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Lejuwaan: I think it's, you know, a form of escapism,

not necessarily a negative way,

just that the world's, like, not in the best place,

and it's felt at every corner,

so being able to go into another world

and forget about all that,

figure about the stress of your day-to-day,

your job and the world's issues at large, it's a good feeling.

The world is our canvas of opportunity

for multimedia experiences.

The possibilities are limitless, really,

from projecting on outdoor buildings

to retail experiences, right?

We can reinvent experiences and create new ones

through the means of multimedia.

Saiff: Everything we do has never been done before,

and that's why we love it.

We want to keep doing things

that have never been done before.

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