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The Lab : Making sense of Immersion in 2020

#3 Immersion for Culture Institutions: Which Technology for Which Need?

Summary from our third episode of the new series of Meetup, held in December 1st



  • Camille LOPATO, Diversion Cinema
  • Sandro KERESELIDZE, Artechouse

After two sessions about collaboration and distribution of immersive artworks in museums, we continue our collaborative discussion, with a focus this time on technology. 

Camille Lopato has presented Diversion Cinema which she founded in 2016 in Paris. Diversion Cinema distributes a catalogue of VR experiences and has showcased VR in various locations such as the Panthéon in Paris (Séance 129) and the Musée Orsay with ARTE, Forum des images Paris, at festivals like Venice VR Expanded… 

She went on straight to the point with a case study about a VR Cinema experience in the Oceaonopolis Aquarium in Brest (east of France) back in 2018: 

  • Over the summer 80 seats welcomed viewers with 7 screenings per day. There was innovative creative work put forward, monetisation for creatives and for Diversion Cinema, evangelisation of the audience. Overall it was a very interesting experience for the venue. 

  • The need of Oceaonopolis was to create a successful marketing event: after a recent reopening in February 2018, the high season that summer was decisive to attract new audiences. They were looking for a new event, and were able to interact with them prior to the event and during the event, engaging viewers to share their feedback on TripAdvisor etc. 

  • No additional fee was requested on top of the entry ticket as it was part of a bigger communication strategy.

  • This was a big success with 24,000 viewers in total. 

  • A trailer of the event shows the audience reactions during a screening: children and families enjoying amazing content (Wild immersion with Jane Goodhall for example), people moving a lot in 360°, applause at the end of the screening. 

Another tool that Diversion Cinema has developed is the Viktor Romeo station that doesn’t need a dedicated VR cinema operator. They had stations installed at many venues: Bozar Centre in Bruxelles, in a partnership with Universcience with 20 stations as part of the Micro Folies nomad digital museum, allowing venues to take care of the VR cinema on its own, Grand Palais ARTConnexion with 6 stations; in the Philharmonie de Paris in the exhibition Expo Electro showcase of a VR kit with the production “-22,7°”. 

For interactive VR used in some immersive contents, there is a need for a computer to run the experiences. The set up requires special preparation and space. Diversion Cinema has worked with such an installation at the Eye Filmmuseum Amsterdam, at the Galerie Cinema in Paris (with 4 HTC Vive stations showing Spheres) and at the Cinemathèque française (2 stations with a special Halloween programmation). 

Another interesting example is Ayahuasca by Jan Kounen. A proper context was needed to accompany the VR piece. The director Jan Kounen wanted to have a special set-up to show his work and to try different models of distribution. The goal was to make it more understandable for museum venues. So Diversion Cinema created additional content for the exhibition. It was deployed for the first time at the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam last year in November 2019. Over a short period of 11 days of exhibition, screenings were quickly sold out. New audiences came with around 660 people (12 screenings per day). 

Showing “Ayahuasca” by Jan Kounen at the Eye Filmmuseum Amsterdam was very interesting as a case of R&D for distribution and Diversion’s first exhibition. 

Another trial was made with the cultural Centre 104 in Paris with Quest headsets showing “Peach garden” a content walking room experience, showcased in November 2020 during only 3 days (as the lock down came and put a halt to the 13 days initially foreseen) with 6 Quest headsets and 7 screenings per day. It was a way to test new art form showcasing, to talk about monetisation and to train their team. 

In conclusion, you should ask yourself what drives your decision making: What is more important for you? Is it the art piece itself? Do you want to attract new audiences or reward your existing audience? Is the target audience key for you? Is it an event you do for prestige? What space do you have? To make VR experiences great, make sure you have a dedicated team taking care of the equipment and mediation with your audience. 

Last piece of advice by Camillle is: Test, train, rehearse and adjust !

Sandro Kereselidze presented us Artechouse a studio producing innovative art experiences founded in 2015. Artechouse launched a first permanent venue in Washington DC in 2017, followed by a space in Miami, FL in 2018 New York City, NY in 2019. Artechouse has produced until today about 20 large scale art exhibitions stimulating interest in the limitless possibilities of tech, science and creativity. Their goal is to inspire new generations of genre-pushing artists to create with the technology of the 21st century; educate the public about new, exploratory mediums.

And empower artists and partners with tools and platforms that support and amplify their work. Artechouse has attracted 1.1 million visitors in 5 years. Sandro explained that their mission is to pioneer new kinds of experiences. 

Artechouse chooses to collaborate with the most innovative artists in the world and even more significantly to build a community and collective way of creating artworks. The human connectivity is very important in this field. 

This session went on with many questions: As digital artists have now a « dedicated » galleries to exhibit their work with Artechouse, will galleries or museums dedicated to VR develop? Sandro and Camille confirmed that this was a trend. For Sandro, his goal as an exhibition space is to produce experiences. Many galleries have opened with success showing innovative art forms. Another question was about the role of the museum in working with either a venue or a distributor. In Diversion Cinema’s point of view, museums would come to Diversion Cinema with a project that is not very precise at an early stage. A discussion will then start about the needs, the goals and the purpose of the museum with this project. After that comes the operational side of the project. As for Artechouse, their team acts as a producer and a venue at the same time, so the approach is a bit different, it’s more reality-oriented. 

The third question was about the individual experience versus a collective one of a digital art installation. Artechouse doesn’t see it as a duality. We should ask ourselves what we want to achieve with the experience. We want to go on stage, and empower people thanks to innovation. There is an overlap. Camille at Diversion Cinema recalls that VR was seen as a lonely experience a few years back, but you can make things collective. Camille truly believes that :

There is a common sense of collectiveness. After a VR screening, most of the people need to talk about it and share their impressions. It’s not very different from traditional cinema. You are alone with your headset, but in a group of other viewers. 

Our last subject to the discussion was about the immersive sound technology in the museum that is very powerful for immersion. Artechouse confirmed that sound immersion is very important. In their creations, they offer the same sound experience wherever you stay in space. Sound has accessibility to the brain more than any other organ. It can create a specific mood with a stronger connection. Camille pointed out that sound triggers your imagination with very strong effects. Some experiences succeed in maximizing your audio imagination with few images or even no image. 

Here our closing note: Don’t underestimate the human side of tech !

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