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Immersive Projection, Liquid Light Shows & Psychedelics

JUNE 12, 2022.

If you have even a passing interest in the arts, you’re probably familiar with an immersive art show based on the works of a famous and long ago deceased artist. Immersive Van Gogh? Beyond Monet? Da Vinci Alive, anyone? Perhaps you checked out one of these shows.  Maybe you really enjoy this type of experience, and have returned several times. These sorts of shows have become a global phenomenon. It’s fair to say that people around the world enjoy these immersive experiences.

And it makes sense. We’ve become so accustomed to having technology dominate our lives, that sometimes a simple still painting on a wall isn’t enough to grab our attention. This is especially true for younger generations. It needs to be BIG. It needs to move. And if there’s sound? All the better. Technology has changed our attention spans, our expectations, and patience. And so many artists and businesses are responding to these changes, offering ticketed art experiences that are mindful of the public’s changing appetites. As technology advances, artists are able to leverage new tools—to create fresh, cutting-edge, and never-before-seen works of art.

But is immersive projection really all that new an experience?  While it might be true that seeing Van Gogh’s paintings projected to 30 feet tall, moving across gallery walls, seems like a novel and fun way to experience his work, high quality projections are certainly nothing new.  After all, until the rise of streaming services and home cinemas, projection was the de facto way to screen films to audiences, going back to the end of the 19th century.

The psychedelic explosion of the 1960s saw plenty of creative heads enhancing concerts and parties with projected psychedelic visuals.  Using oils and liquids, dyes, glass, and other tools, liquid light projections became a staple in psychedelic scene events like the Bay Area Acid Tests in the 1960s, and on the East Coast at the Fillmore East, lead by Joshua White of the Joshua Light Show. Every night, while the band was playing, a team of artists would create (in real time, in sync with the music), a big, trippy psychedelic visual backdrop to accompany the music. There were also Andy Warhol’s “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” happenings, which mixed live music and projections to create a truly “multimedia” experience. Did these visuals enhance the experience?  Naturally.  Did psychedelic substances make those projected visuals even more mesmerizing? Almost certainly. To attendees, it must have felt a bit like living inside of a lava lamp.

So, suffice to say that using projections to augment art and concert experiences is an old trick. Why did it take so long for this recent wave of immersive projection shows to come along? Well, part of the reason is that the work of most of these famous, deceased artists—Van Gogh, Da Vinci, and the rest—at the center of these experiences has only recently come in to public domain. This means anyone can take the still images of Van Gogh’s or Monet’s work, and create an animated movie with it. There is no intellectual property concern, and permission is not required from a managing estate. It’s basically a free-for-all, which is why we are seeing many companies (more than 10) now competing in major cities for ticket revenues. There were recently two simultaneous Van Gogh shows in NYC, and two competing Van Gogh shows in Las Vegas. That’s a lot of Van Gogh shows!

With all this in mind, it should come as no surprise that there will be some impressive projection-based, psychedelic visuals in the Psychedelics Exhibition. We won’t be using images of paintings from famous, deceased artists. We will be creating fresh, never before seen projection based art, which we think you’re going to love.  And how could a psychedelic art event not include some liquid light projections as well? See you in October.

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