Beyond Vincent, There Is Nothing

Beyond Vincent, There Is Nothing

Why attend?

I want to be impressed,
be proven wrong.

I want to know that art
can cross the divide,
be projected on a scale
that does not shadow its own beauty.

Instead, a meretricious display
leaves a foul taste and fails
to honor the work of a master.

This past weekend, we went to St. Louis to attend Beyond van Gogh, The Immersive Experience. I understand that presentations differ from venue to venue, and I have seen images from other cities that did not appear in St. Louis. Video shorts in the banners of sites for the event in various cities have a quality that I found to be nonexistent in the presentation we attended. I considered this one to be underwhelming.  It says something when the highlight of the weekend was visiting a couple of craft breweries in St. Louis.  (And, of course, a visit to the Gateway Arch, even on a cloudy day.)

The presentation was a projection of some of the works of Vincent van Gogh on a thirty minute loop in a room with a lofty ceiling, but with four walls that were 20 feet high in an area that might have been 100 feet by 50 feet. Two large, four-sided pillars stood down the center-line of the room. The projection from the ceiling onto adjacent long and short walls and one pillar was repeated on the other two walls and pillar. Both of the long walls had a “seam” where projections overlapped, creating blurriness and, in some instances, a double image. At times, there seemed to be too much light in the room.

Our tickets were for a 60 minute period, but we were advised to stay as long as we wished. We stayed through four cycles so that we could see all of the presentation, and at no time was the room crowded.

I recognize the importance of accessibility for people who may not have an understanding of van Gogh, but people standing directly against the wall, casting shadows on the projection while they posed for selfies, or parents who paid the price of admission so that their children could stand by the wall talking about who-knows-what as they blocked the view of others, added nothing to the experience.

As for the production, in some instances, the high resolution offered details, such as brushstrokes present in paintings that I likely will never see in person. Of course, the relief/texture of those brushstrokes could not be reproduced, but that was to be expected. One key, touted aspect of the event was a form of animation, such as moving stars in The Starry Night, or a glimmering night sky and a shimmer on the water of Starry Night Over the Rhône, which actually did produce a tantalizing effect. Another effect was the layering of branches and blossoms, unrelated to the art they covered, that spread and grew until they consumed the original projection. This effect was impressive, albeit tacky.

Instrumental music, some of it incongruous, played throughout the presentation. What America (as an instrumental), by Simon and Garfunkel, has to do with van Gogh, I don’t know. As Don McLean’s Vincent (instrumental) played, none of the song references matched scenes as they were presented and when they would have been most effective, including The Starry Night. As for The Starry Night, the focus was on the stars in the sky (until replaced by an animation of swirling lines), with no emphasis on the village. If the cedar, a prominent feature in the foreground of the painting, was present, I missed it entirely.

As I said earlier, I considered the presentation to be underwhelming. This brief interview regarding a viewing of the original in Paris, at L’Atelier des Lumiéres, may be more objective.

This video of the original in Paris is pretty impressive.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons – The Starry Night, by Vincent van Gogh (cropped here)

Photo: The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri (click image for larger view in new tab)

Shared with Go LIVE with dVerse!

56 thoughts on “Beyond Vincent, There Is Nothing

  1. Oh, I’m sorry to hear all this, Ken. My Beloved Sandra and I attended the show (I assume the same show?) in Montreal almost 2 years ago & it was FANTASTICO (both visual and audio) and –trust me — we’re both big Vincent fans, so we’re pretty picky. I guess a LOT depends on venue, eh?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve heard good and bad reviews. We’re going to be seeing one in Philadelphia soon. This one already has points taken off because we had to reschedule and their “secret” Philadelphia location is actually in Upper Darby. . . Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorry, it looks like what started out as a good idea has turned into a cash grab. Welcome to capitalism. At least the uninterested should have had the courtesy to leave the area. Maybe a notice with expectations should be posted outside of the exhibition area to that effect.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am so sorry to hear that, Ken. Your disappointment is vivid and palpable here .. I can feel it.. picture the people “standing directly against the wall, casting shadows on the projection,”… it seems to me that they fail to discern the importance of art .. seeing that they were casting shadows on the projection .. sigh.. maybe it all comes down to the venue. I hope it wasn’t all bad and that you liked seeing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for the poetry and review!!! I have passed it along to family and friends in St. Louis and surrounding area! What a shame …. I was just in St. Louis, attending the last home game of the 2021 season which they lost to the Cubs and we got drenched twice. What we get for sitting seven rows from the grassy field.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hmmm …. well, if it comes to Austin I’ll go.
    Probably the space in which presented has a good deal to do with effectiveness. Maybe some of the pieces “missing” were so because they couldn’t do them justice in the St. Louis facility? Sounds like the St. Louis presentation team may have not been up to the challenge. Disappointing for you, and likely lots more.
    Your poem sets expectations should I come near this!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have no interest in this for some reason–I’ve read conflicting reviews, but even the glowing ones failed to move me. To see a Van Gogh painting is magic–a virtual reality Van Gogh, to me, is not. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This sounds like an interesting idea, if it may not have been wholly successful in the execution. I’m lucky enough to have seen some originals, in the National Gallery London and the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. What struck me was the emotional response I had to the paintings. And I didn’t really understand the tourists taking snapshots, because why not buy a high quality print?

    Sorry I didn’t get to hear you read!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This was so on point for me as we had just seen Van Gogh – The Immersion. Although it was panned by the Boston Globe art critic, the show (not really an exhibit) we saw, we enjoyed very much. There are two of these shows coming to Boston and we will see the second one in December to compare the two. This one we just saw was in a theatre that has not been used in maybe 4 years? There were a few halls to walk through with displays about his life etc (I did not know he was color blind!) and then, I think it must have been the stage itself, the huge room with material walls on all four sides and plush white carpet on the floor. there were various benches around the room to sit on, as well as big pillows around the floor and some beach chair types with Starry Starry Night cloth sling seats (that was kind of hoakey). People entered and at various times. The “show” in there was 37 minutes long according to the article. But we quickly became immersed in it so time played no part for us. Scenes changed on all four walls around us…and they went very very high…I supposed because it was a stage…think scenery changes and walls that are hauled up into the tops of a stage that the audience doesn’t see and that gives you an idea of the height of the “walls”. I think the “walls” were simply material and the images were projected on all four walls…every changing….fluid…at one point it was “raining” on all four walls around us and there were “puddles” forming on the carpet. We thought it was quite well done….and there was beautiful orchestral music. Other than the music, there was not a peep from anyone….no one walking around to get photos…people simply sitting, lying on their backs, etc watching and taking photos from their positions. It will be interesting to see how the second show differs. I’m sorry the one you saw was not as well done. And my sincere apologies for not having everyone hear your reading. We shall try and work out the timing situation before the next LIVE.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad your experience was enjoyable. I’ve seen photos of some pretty impressive settings. One was of a path leading to the presentation. It wound through a room of waist-high sunflowers, with a mirror for the ceiling. I can understand how some might see that as kitschy, but I’m sure the effect was quite pleasing.


  10. There seem to be many Van Gogh experiences available at the moment – I know there is one in London. What a shame it left you disappointed. And, what is it about selfies? Why can’t people just enjoy the moment?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love that clip of Dr Who.

    I was once fortunate to visit the Jeu de Paume in 1984, before the venue’s focus changed, and viewed some originals (though memory no longer serves me as to which.)

    As for the selfie-collectors… I doubt they came to embrace an experience, but to brag of one. their loss. ~

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Very interesting Ken. Sorry your experience did not meet expectations. I think as you say the venue may have had some to do with that. I can imagine it would be hard to take a great presentation in one place and replicate in a dozen others. Enjoyed your poem!


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