The Lab : Making sense of Immersion in 2020
#2 How to distribute Immersive artworks in a Museum ?
Summary from our second episode of the new series of Meetup, held in December 1st
New Vision Needed for New Media Dissemination
For our second session facilitated by Darragh Dandurand, we had the pleasure to welcome three key experts from the field Hannah Bellicha, Digital Project Manager, Institut Français (France), Myriam Achard, Chief New Media Partnerships & PR, Centre Phi (Canada) and Mike Jones, Senior Producer, Marshmallow Laser Feast (United Kingdom).
The ambition of this new episode was to create a fruitful dialogue for creative industries to discuss how to produce, curate and exhibit new media and immersive contents. Our guests came to talk about digital creations, artists embracing new technology, contextualization and testing new distribution models.
Hanna Bellicha, digital project manager from the Institut Français, presented the latest project for digital culture: a catalogue presenting 40 French productions at the intersection of VR, XR, visual art, live entertainment introduced to theatres, exhibitions, contents. The Institut Français experiences growing demand for contacts in cultural spaces from immersive artworks producers. At the same time, museums lack knowledge of what’s available. The Institut Français wants to facilitate understanding and access to the market for spaces and venues.
The catalogue is a selection, featuring LBE pieces, immersive installations and other interactive experiences. It covers all genres and art practices (arts, dance, live performances, documentaries, fiction, games).
“More and more venues consider their visitors not as consumers anymore, but as actors willing to experiment with new media contents.”
This catalogue will be renewed every year, it shows the great diversity of the French artistic scene. Technical requirements to programming those creations are listed in the catalogue to help venues to invite those creations.
Our second guest was Myriam Achard. She is in charge of New Media partnerships and PR at the Centre Phi in Montréal, which opened in 2012 in Old Montreal. To reply to the question of our episode, Myriam presented some past exhibitions and future plans.
For their digital art exhibitions, the Centre Phi always has the same goal: to invite visitors to experience the best of digital artworks for an optimal experience. There was “Hum(ai)n” in 2018, a piece blending VR, AI, interactive elements. In retrospect, Myriam thinks that this is very important to give a detailed context to the public, not only introduction and explanations about the artworks but in terms of set-up and installation. The Centre Phi develops a strong artistic direction to its exhibitions.
Bringing a strong artistic direction and a contextualization to digital art contents is key for a successful mediation.
Another example was the VR series “Sphere”, for which the Centre Phi worked on the design customized to the headsets and space dedicated to the experience. This was the first try with light circles above each headset. It succeeded in creating a beautiful installation which was invited to the Rockefeller Centre in NYC in 2019.
Bringing an artistic contextualisation was also a challenge for the exhibition “Cadavre Exquis” showing contemporary art through alternative lenses. There were VR pieces by Marina Abramovic, Koo Jeong A, Hsin-Chien Huang, Antony Gormley and Priyamvada Natarajan, Paul McCarthy, Laurie Anderson (“Chalk room” among others) and Olafur Eliasson. It shows how renewed artists were working to integrate new technology into their practices. This becomes a greater part of their artistic creations.
2020 was supposed to be the year to make those creations and set-up travelling to other spaces, to NYC, Milan, London, and more. But it’s been postponed and will take place hopefully in different locations next year. Facing the 2020’s lockdown, the Centre Phi felt the urge to reach out to its local audiences and keep providing the best creative VR experiences. Since March 2020, the Centre Phi offers a new product called “PHI VR TO GO”: they brought VR headsets to audiences’ homes, and it was a big success. Having 75 Oculus Go headsets already at hand was very helpful to start this programme in a very short time. The programme was extended after the confinement in Québec City and is still running now. This was a good example of thinking out of the box and reversing the problematic to reach out to an audience.
Our last guest was Mike Jones: producer at the immersive art collective Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF) in London. He demonstrated ambitious works with a unique vision of digital creations, including immersive artworks, collective and interactive installations, projection mappings, light games, and more. The main challenge is how to engage the audience. Mike has experienced many different business models.
He gave us feedback on the experience of “We live in An Ocean of Air”showcased at the Saatchi Gallery in London with great success. More than 28,000 tickets were sold in a 6 months exhibition period with 70% of the visitors coming specifically for this exhibition and a powerful word of mouth. Space could welcome 12 visitors every 10 minutes. Extended two times, the exhibition has attracted all ages and driven a large variety of public segments.
Try different business models, try new ways to showcase art!
About immersive distribution, Mike said this is a bit like the Wild West. Everyone has to try and find the best way to distribute immersive artworks.
There is a niche in the museum sector, but this is not enough for ensuring sufficient revenues. This example of “We Live in An Ocean Air” points out a key aspect of immersive productions: this is really important to give people a positive experience for their first VR experience and MLF has done that with a beautiful creation allowing to experience a new kind of perception. New challenges come up with new media productions. There are a lot of opportunities to address, and the digital art producers are all struggling to create a dedicated space and new ways to bring content, sense and entertainment to the public.