It wasn’t a hacker, but one of Microsoft’s big bosses, attorney Brad Smith, who recognized: when your technology changes the world, you have to confront the world you helped create. So, it’s time to rethink the effects that immersive art shows are having. The first one: they lead the public to misread the works they exhibit on a monumental scale and with high technology.
The Renoir exhibition, on display at Shopping Pátio Paulistadespite his good intentions, is no exception to the rule: he wants the public to immerse himself in the universe of the French impressionist painter, but the depth of the virtual environment is shallow for the author of the bathersone of the screens replicated in the show, in the penultimate room of the exhibition, mounted on the Jardins floor of the mall.
Better to walk a little over a kilometer and see Renoir live, in Masp. The Avenida Paulista museum has no less than 12 paintings by Renoir in its collection, covering almost the entire career of the artist. Until then Pink and blue is the most popular, portraying the girls in the family of Jewish banker Louis Raphael Cahen d’Anvers, one of them (Elisabeth) executed in a Nazi death camp. In time: the canvas was stolen by the Germans and passed through the house of the German military Hermann Göring, leader of the National Socialist Party of Hitlerbefore arriving at Masp, in 1952.
Of course, this is not a subject for immersive exhibitions, but for museums, where you can see, know the history and verify the texture and the real brushstrokes, not simulacra. The fundamental problem in the contemporary world seems to be the inability to contemplate anything. Especially in immersive shows, everything is conceived with another proposal, that of alienating the public and feeding Instagram content with the so-called Instagrammable Spaces.
Renoir’s show, by the way, has one of them in the fourth area, Rest with the Flowers, where the visitor, in addition to enjoying the flowers painted by him, can take pictures. In these instagrammable spaces, visitors take selfies to show their friends that they were at the exhibition – and, of course, to prove that they like art.
Feeling an integral part of or “entering” a painting by Renoir is not difficult, as it is in the works of Monet, which gains an immersive exhibition (Monet le Rêve) from today (1) in Alphaville. Renoir created pleasant, joyful environments, corresponding to the spectator’s desire to “belong”. But he can imagine that anyone, in their right mind, wants to “be part” of the dark world of wheat fields swarmed by the crows of van Gogh? Or that you feel comfortable in front of your self-portrait with the bandaged ear painted during a psychotic break?
Obviously, such exhibitions were thought of as playful events, not artistic shows with real paintings for contemplation. In the immersive show, one or two explanations about the author and his creations seem sufficient. The rest is an unpalatable soundtrack that exterminates art and artists.
Noise, of course, does not match concentration. Contrary to the pedagogical intention, these virtual environments were thought of as spectacles to distract the audience, not provoke reflection. What matters is registering the selfie on the social network. It’s good for the visitor, for the organizers of the show and for Instagram. Less for art.
Van Gogh, by the way, seems to be the preferred victim of this immersive mania, adopted as a model for a series of exhibitions of the genre. The numbers are stratospheric: more than 10 million people visited the show ‘Beyond Van Gogh’ around the world – in São Paulo, held in the parking lot of Morumbi Shopping, 20 thousand tickets were sold even before it opened.
‘Van Gogh Live 8K’, current poster at Barra Shopping, in Rio de Janeiro, projects works by the artist and promises a resolution “never seen before, capable of giving the visitor the impression of being in front of the strokes made by the brush itself”. All at prices that have never been seen before (from R$180). The painter who only sold one painting in his lifetime is, according to the publicity of the event, an “impressive ‘case’ of success”.
Marketing and media success, to be sure, but the Van Gogh consecrated by art history is far from these mega entertainment shows that, almost always, end up in parody. Such immersive exhibitions, which use a modern technological arsenal – multiple projections, augmented reality, ambient music – have claimed several victims along the way.
The world has seen immersive displays of Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Monet, Portinari and even Klimtbut Van Gogh is unbeatable as a “spectacle”: ‘Beyond Van Gogh’, who passed through São Paulo and went to Brasília, guarantees the viewer a place at the window of the room where he was hospitalized at the Arles hospice, in the south of France, so that you have the exact view of the angle chosen by the artist when painting the starry night, canvas from 1889.
the popular series Emily in Paris explored this international craze for immersive exhibitions. Miles away from the works exhibited in the Louvre and d’Orsay museums, the American woman of the title is inserted into a digital environment to open her love drama in an immersive Van Gogh show, associating the Dutchman’s brushstrokes in gigantic projections with Emily’s passion.
The interactive exhibition opened at the MIS Experience, in São Paulo in June, ‘Portinari for All’, also wanted to put the visitor in the painter’s shoes, inviting them to pick up a brush and pass it over Portinari’s works. Like other immersive shows, what was left was a huge, immense, frustration.
Portinari was indeed a popular painter, not least because of his ideological position, focused on the democratization of art. However, other artists contemplated with these immersive shows were individualists and never put ideology before the easel. Today transformed into consumer products, in the form of merchandise and media, these artists are either sold in a romanticized way, in the case of Renoiror parodic, despite the fact that his works were often produced in tragic circumstances – in the case of Van Gogh – without the slightest illusion of posthumous recognition.
Outside the context in which they were created, these works are freely interpreted by the curators and used arbitrarily with an eye on the box office, which explains the spectacularization of Van Gogh’s canvases. Naturally, they are shows that have little or no educational commitment to the works they show. The focus is the audience, not the artist. There must be something wrong with a self-centered society that prefers a superficial contact with a projection rather than a melee with the real work – and in this case, the previous observation about the proximity of the Masp (with its 12 real paintings by Renoir) is worth it. and the mall that shows animations from the French painter’s canvases.
Several theorists in the past have dedicated themselves to finding the fundamental reason for this narcissism of contemporary society, obsessed with selfies and spectacles – to remember two of them, Christopher Lasch (author of The Culture of Narcissism) and Guy Debord (The Society of the Spectacle), both killed in 1994.
Lasch considered (more than 30 years ago) that there was a character flaw in this narcissism and an unhealthy growth in the use of the “other” as a mirror, in addition to a devaluation of the past (and the future) by preferring the simulacrum to the real things. The French Debord, a Marxist, said that the spectacle is a form of bourgeois domination over other social segments, taking advantage of the alienation of the less literate, who want to make the best use of the spectacle, and not learn something from it.
Immersive or interactive exhibitions seem to say that a traditional art exhibition – like that of museums and galleries – is anachronistic and somehow inferior, less dynamic. Curators of these exhibitions believe that expanding the brushstroke of an artist to the size of a building “facilitates” the understanding of an artist’s technique and procedure, when the opposite is true: for immersion in a canvas, what is required is concentration, contemplation, imagination and silence in front of painting, all that high technology cannot offer. She will continue to evolve. It may be that in the future it will bring a new kind of audience interaction with art. But the real work will remain irreplaceable.