Enter a World of Immersive Art

Many cultural institutions are concerned with being outdated, consequently losing visitors and interest. With such fast-paced digital entertainment at our fingertips, it could be said that many people no longer feel the thrill of going to traditional galleries or museums.

As a reaction to this, museums around the world are exploring modern ways of retaining interest and engaging audiences. Some are adapting their traditional identity by collaborating with other sectors of the arts, such as dance and music, whereas others are beginning to introduce immersive experiences, enabling visitors to actively participate and engage in the exhibits, rather than simply being passive viewers. The result marks an entirely new era of recreation, blurring the lines between culture and entertainment. Two amazing examples I recently had the pleasure of visiting are the Art in Paradise Museum in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and the Art Science Museum in Singapore.

The Art in Paradise Interactive Art Museum spans across three locations in Thailand and adopts illusion art along with augmented reality, to create an experience exactly as the title suggests: art in paradise. Illusion art is painted onto the floors and walls throughout the entire gallery, each room adopting a different theme, such as underwater, tropical, or pre-historic. Visitors are able to pose with the paintings, seamlessly becoming immersed in the three dimensional illusion. Taking it to the next level, visitors are also able to download an app that is used as a viewfinder for an AR experience: when you look at the art through your smartphone, the paintings come to life. Recording photographs or videos through the app allows visitors to capture AR footage of themselves within the digital environment. The clever concept works well in attracting typical modern audiences who enjoy taking and sharing unique photographs of themselves, thus creating newfound excitement about the artwork.

A photo of myself in one of the pieces of illusion art; visitors are able to walk behind a false wall, so it looks like they are in the 3D painting. Art in Paradise, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Interested to visit more contemporary exhibitions of this nature, I was equally drawn to Singapore’s ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands, a fantastic institution that blends art and culture with science and technology. “It’s where the future is created”. During my visit, I explored two of their current exhibitions: Future World: Where Art Meets Science, presented with teamLab, and Wonderland, presented with acmi. Both exhibitions showcased the most innovative designs that are a fusion of digital technology, artistic creativity and human engagement. Here are a few of the features that truly wowed me!

Toy-Train Track Town

Train track towns are one of the most traditional toys dating back to the early 1900s, where you can building a train track and/or roads, decorate the surrounding area with houses and trees, and then populate your town with vehicles. The ingenious installation in the exhibition took this idea to the next level by incorporating a digital element. Using physical wooden blocks in the form of houses and stations as triggers, once placed on the ground, virtual roads and train tracks immediately appear connecting them. If two bridges are placed down for instance, a virtual river will appear flowing under them, two helipads will trigger a virtual helicopter to fly between them. Each time one connection point is moved, the virtual path adapts in accordance. It is a truly ingenious transformation, bringing an age old game into the digital realm.

Train Track Town, ArtScience Museum, Singapore. © Emily D’Silva
Transcending Boundaries

This closed-off room is dark and atmospheric, with projectors beaming borderless digital animations of beautiful wildlife onto the walls and floor. The animations are not simply pieces of digital artwork, but with a mixed reality feature built in, it becomes an interactive experience. When a visitor stands in front of the waterfall, the virtual water “splashes” on their head and cascades down around them, like a real waterfall would. When visitors walk across the flowers, new flower shoots burst out from beneath their feet. When visitors touch the butterflies flying across the walls, the butterflies die and fall to the ground. It’s beautiful and poignant, drawing attention to the delicate balance of life and the connection between all living things.

“Transcending Boundaries”, ArtScience Museum, Singapore. © Emily D’Silva
Animated Mural

This digital art installation is informed by visitors’ input. Visitors will create their artwork either by colouring with pastels or by creating a collage. Once completed, their physical 2D picture is scanned in a matter of seconds and just like that, the creation appears as a digital 3D object within the mural, flying, dancing, or interacting with other people’s creations. The technology for this idea is used across both the Future Worlds and Wonderland exhibitions. In the Wonderland exhibit, digital toymakers Mosster Studio have created an interactive experience inspired by Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations. After visitors create their own card soldiers with a collage of the illustrations, scan the image in, as well as take a headshot photo of themselves, personalised card soldiers appear in the animated mural depicting the Queen of Hearts’ Croquet Ground.

My whimsical playing card design using Sir John Tennial’s illustrations, which came alive and danced in the digital garden behind. ArtScience Museum, Singapore. © Emily D’Silva

All of these experiences at both the ArtScience Museum and the Art in Paradise Museum are unique and wonderful examples of how using digital technology, they can offer an innovative way for visitors to immerse themselves in the arts once again.

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