Beyond Van Gogh arrives to Panamá
In the middle of its successful world tour, “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” visits Latin America. The exhibition, currently in Panama, will continue on its journey to other countries in the region on November 14.
By Sandra Gómez
Photos: Timothy Norris
I was barely fourteen years old when I met and fell madly in love with Vincent Van Gogh thanks to the slides that Gloria Nieto de Arias showed us in Art History class. I was amazed by how this artist used brushstrokes to achieve the subtlety of a cloud blown by the wind, the texture of forests, and the perfection of flowers. While our enlightened teacher spoke to us about Post-Impressionism, I ate potatoes with the potato eaters, smelled wheat fields, ran through fields of irises, and gazed at the stars under a clear night sky.
I never imagined that, years later, I would stand one step away from Van Gogh’s works in the halls of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Entering the museum in the company of my children was like visiting his house, a tete a tete with the artist. I could feel his inspiration, smell his paintings, and see the world through his eyes. I got to see his beginnings in his homeland and his dark tones, the influence of his friends in Paris and his change in palette, and the tragedy of his misunderstood life. I was certain I would never experience anything more sublime, and yet that moment came in Bogotá at the “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” exhibition.
Among the many fragments from Van Gogh’s Letters to Theo (a collection of letters he wrote to his brother) on display there, I found this one, which I read to Olivia, my six-year-old granddaughter: “I’d like to walk with you to find if we look at things the same way…” and then Olivia and I dove in, hand in hand. We soon discovered that this exhibit was not about standing, once again, in front of his paintings. Rather, his works came to life and enveloped us in every possible way. The walls and floors were his canvas and we were part of his brushstrokes.
In fact, three hundred works by Van Gogh had been freed from their two-dimensional limitations using 3D projection technology and music to create a multidimensional experience unlike anything I’d ever seen.
The tour begins in the Education Room, where we learn about the artist’s tormented life and revisit some of the most beautiful phrases exchanged by brothers Théo and Vincent over the course of their lives. We then move on to the Cascade Room —perhaps created as a transition— full of splashes and dots of color flowing down the walls to intermittently form one of the artist’s self-portraits, hinting at and preparing guests for the experience to come: “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience.”
Here, free of their frames, Van Gogh’s spectacular paintings surround us and we lose ourselves among the fields of lilies and under The Starry Night. For a moment we are the muses that inspired him while, at the same time, his strokes inspire us. We run through the cobbled streets and sit down on the terrace of a cafe at night. We get a close look at Bedroom in Arles and caress his sunflowers with our hands, thanks to the four billion pixels of multidimensional content. The paintings come and go and collide with each other, leaving the viewer enthralled by the artist’s genius. Théo’s words and Vincent’s thoughts make this an aural and narrative experience as well as a visual one. The score includes an eclectic mix of contemporary themes featuring Miles Davis, Pat Metheny, and Max Richter.
Created by French-Canadian Mathieu St-Arnaud and his team at the world-renowned Normal Studio in Montreal, Canada, these contemporary geniuses bring the incomparable Dutchman to life, making multimedia magic transform physical spaces into true multi-sensory experiences. The exhibition, produced by Paquin Entertainment Group, has sold more than three million tickets worldwide, making it one of the most popular traveling exhibitions. The exhibition has just arrived in Panama, where it will remain until November 14, when it will continue its journey through Central and South America.
While still full of color and fascination, we spotted our architect friend Diana Tello in the distance, lying on the floor below The Starry Night alongside her five-year-old daughter Mariana. They were spellbound: the mother, given her artistic sensitivity, and the daughter, in full discovery of color and creation. It was their second trance, they would tell us later; they had also rested next to the Almond Blossom where, they told us, they could even imagine its aroma.
The truth is, this revelation came as no surprise. During the time we were in the exhibition, Olivia and I were the stars in Van Gogh’s night sky, we were reflections in the dark canals, we were wheat and lilies, his eyes and his face. We walked through his green valleys and were clouds in the sky. My granddaughter and I, for a day, were Van Gogh’s sunflowers. Being immersed in his world, in his time, in his life, completed the love story that began one day when I was just a school girl.
This exhibit is the work of French-Canadian visual designer Mathieu St-Arnaud and his team at the Normal Studio in Montreal (Canada); it is produced by the Paquin Entertainment Group. Four trillion pixels of multi-dimensional content immerse spectators in a universe of intense sensations.
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