Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, which has finally made its way to Rochester. Beyond Van Gogh was created by creative director Mathieu St-Arnaud and his team at Normal Studio in Montreal and has spread across the world. Its website boasts about the experience’s “cutting edge projection technology” and an original score accompanying the over 300 paintings featured throughout the show. I first saw this event on Instagram months ago when it was in Buffalo, and I considered driving there to see it. Now, it’s located in the Dome Arena in Henrietta, a convenient 15-minute drive away from campus.
The entries are supposed to be timed, but that didn’t seem to matter to the people working at the entrance, so I went in about 10 minutes before my official start time. The experience is split into two rooms: the introduction hall and the actual immersive room with all of the paintings. The introduction hall is filled with about 10 different screens displaying close-up textures of Van Gogh’s paintings with text on top about his life and quotes from his letters to his brother Theo. The descriptive paragraphs attempt to prepare visitors for what they’ll see next, with quotes such as “Far from the dark madness that accompanies the legend of his genius, Van Gogh’s work radiates joy and celebrates life. With great lucidity and an extensive knowledge of color theory, he used complementary colors to exalt as well as to sooth, consciously exploring the symbolic language of color.” There were also gold decorative frames that hung in between the rows of screens, framing these quotes as though they were paintings themselves.
There was a transitional room between the introduction hall and the main event space which only had some flowy lines and blobs projected on the ceiling and floor that were constantly moving. From there, I moved on to the massive room, which was entirely made of screens, displaying Van Gogh’s works on a 30-minute loop. The transitions between the paintings were fun to watch, as they varied from ripple effects spreading across the entire space to slowly growing, superimposed splotches , and other times the elements of the paintings became animated and filled up the screens. The paintings were accompanied by calm music, with the occasional French quote cast onto the screen. I went with my loyal photographer (my mom) and tried to get some artsy photos of myself with some fun backgrounds like falling cherry blossoms. Unfortunately, the bright lights highlighted every single wrinkle and fold on my shirt, and I had to try and beat smaller children and their moms to the best photo spots or risk the background slipping away. As I left the room, I was funneled into the gift shop where there was an abundance of “Starry Night” and “Sunflowers” themed apparel, knick-knacks, and prints.
So, was it worth it? The entire experience cost me $33 as a student at the cheapest time to visit (a weekday morning). While I enjoyed learning more about Van Gogh and the projections were fun and high quality, I still think $33 is asking a lot for only two rooms and one hour total. It prices a lot of people out of the possibility of seeing the show, as adults sans discounts have to shell out $37 to $47 to enter. If you plan to go on Friday or the weekend, student tickets increase to a whopping $42.
Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience runs until April 24, 2022 and you can buy tickets here.