I’ve been looking into immersive exhibition styles and structures for a while now and, well, one thing stands out a country mile.
There are a lot of lights.
Like… a LOT.
And let’s be honest, when you’re a kid seeing Christmas lights for the first time, it’s mesmerising. When winter light shows became a thing, we were soon after collectively enchanted by rows of sparkly lights lighting up castles and fields and archways and lakes in reds and yellows and icy white.
You get lost in the beauty of it all.
My question is, does the fascination disappear one day when the lights go out? I can’t help but think the fad will one day fade if there’s nothing more substantial behind it. So, subconsciously, I’ve been looking for a deeper connection with how light is used in immersive exhibitions and, as a novice looking mostly on the surface, it took me a while to find it.
Everything all at once
Over the past seven months I’ve been watching clips and videos of immersive artworks, listening to podcasts, reading interviews, connecting with and speaking to people involved in this space and absorbing as much as I can. More recently, I started to see projects I truly connect with.
Light is key to my exhibition ― perhaps even the most meaningful part, but the focus is on our individual light; our power and strength and resilience. I was trying to figure out if the technology fuels my idea or my focus should sit always with the emotional outcome, when I came across a collection of immersive ideas that captured my attention and gave me hope I already have the answers.
What I love most about this piece from Joon Moon is the connection between the boy in real life and the shadow boys trapped inside the room, and it’s the light that brings them together.
“It’s an interactive narrative in which the story progresses to next stages when the viewer finds and approaches the shadows who call him here and there… The room was installed without any openings not only for surround projection, but also for the beginning of the story. Shadow kids are stuck in this room. They are flat shadows, but they become three-dimensional as the story progresses. Fishes jump out of the plane of the floor and swim in the air. In this optical illusion, the viewer deeply engages with the kids who make eye contact and take a light from the viewer’s hand.”Joon Moon’s portfolio statement
The scene is of course beautiful and tender and imaginative. Like Elliott and E.T., you can’t help but will the two characters inside to form a bond that etches a lasting, joyful mark on the living boy’s memory.
Next, I discover Georgie Pinn and her ECHO booths
A detailed write-up by Andiana Cáceres Martínez describes people sitting in a booth to share their story for the ECHO project, which explores “human connection, identity, and empathy”.
“The monitor or screen inside exposes a key element, an AL protagonist that introduces herself as ECHO while presenting a selection of stories on screen and inviting the users to choose the face of another they would like to connect with,” writes Andiana. “Users are taken on a journey to listen to the story from the selected person, and as the narration goes on the facial recognition technology starts to slightly, and with a glitchy effect, change the appearance of the person on screen, re-imaging it as the person sitting in the booth listening to the story. As a result, people find themselves on screen as the new face of the experience lived by another user.”
I’d already had the idea to include some kind of booth in my exhibition to offer people a private space where they can be alone to reflect on their feelings, so it’s exciting to see such a strong interpretation of a private space in action. Andiana sums it up beautifully:
“[It] creates the space for self-reflection where, unlike other installation-type immersive projects, nobody is watching your interaction, which sets a perfect private space for intimate conversations that consequently leads to profound feelings.”Andiana Cáceres Martínez
She also validates my feelings about technology not getting in the way of people being able to connect deeply with an art piece, saying “the immersive experience does not have to be attached to the use of lots of high tech physical equipment to be effective, as a matter of fact, if the immersive medium is not well accompanied by good storytelling element, chances are it will only be a big showroom of high tech”.
Other sparks of ideas
The smallest glimpse of part of a project or art work or idea can set a creative brain alight (I don’t take for granted how my brain will store these memories indefinitely unless I let them go).
1 // Generative AI
Saw a neat video concept from Marlon Barrios Solano, which gave me some ideas about light travelling with you as you move through the exhibition.
2 // Kiss
And a cute idea from Paul Cocksedge Studio where kisses are the source of energy that powers up a huge light installation under the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele dome.
Keen to take a leap forward with bringing my exhibition to life, I spoke to a creative technologist who’s far smarter and exponentially more experienced in immersive art than I am.
“Forget the technology for a minute,” he said. “If this was magic, what would it be?” and when I shared some of my ideas for the first time with someone new, they were as clear as the day I sat down to write my first post on this blog. I’m still certain about what my exhibition means and why I’m doing it, and I’m getting clearer on how I might achieve it. (Thanks, Simon. 🙂)
Now, I need to get back to writing the story behind the experience.
It’s probably time to write an artist statement too, to explain the little doors. Because at some point soon, it’s become apparent I’ll need help, and a venue, and participants… and for that, I’m gonna need buy-in.
Main image created using Midjourney