A Visit to the Van Gogh Immersive
By Tot Foster, 28th July 2022; Feature Image Credit Erica Harrison
In this blogpost, Dr Tot Foster provides a brief account of a trip to the to Van Gogh Immersive exhibition at Bristol’s Propyard with a number of our co-researchers. This was an opportunity for the co-researchers to cement their relationships, make new connections, and to enjoy a shared arts and cultural experience. It was also a chance for them to experience the augmentation of arts using VR technology.
A group of 13 co-researchers and researchers went to visit to the Van Gogh Immersive exhibition This is a commercial exhibit where Van Gogh’s life and works are reimagined as a series of rooms. The first room is akin to a more conventional exhibition with copies of some of his works, a timeline, plenty of information to read and a video. But the main room is a vast space with ever-moving projections on the four walls and the floor; boats moving across the water in darkness with yellow lights casting their brush-stroked reflections, sunflowers spinning and gliding from floor to ceiling, imposing dark arches with self-portraits looking out in imagined torment. At the end of the exhibition is an optional (and at additional cost) ‘VR experience’.
This was the first time most of the co-researchers had experienced anything like this – and they were truly immersed – particularly in the VR. Having been previously underwhelmed by the earlier rooms, Carmeletta gave an excited and detailed account as the headset took her through the French countryside – recounting the fields of wheat and trees as she passed. Ruth and Fanny loved it all: Fanny wrote of the main room afterwards: ‘WOW! There was a moment when the walls were a gallery with all the pictures having themes moving through them, and when the seascape suddenly gushed down I audibly gasped!’. Ruth wrote: ‘I loved the Vivaldi when the images of him came on, changing rapidly. Loved the falling blossom, the rising birds, the steam, his portraits changing on the spot’. Erica sat in the main room for a long time, quietly exuding deep relaxation.
It was fantastic that co-researchers were so positive about the experience and hopefully the visit was useful in informing thinking about the senses and user experience during the phase of the project that has just started – developing ‘demonstrator’ projects; digital products and services that aim to support connection through culture for older people.