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Home > Sunday Mid Day News > How immersive shows in Mumbai are enhancing the way we experience art

How immersive shows in Mumbai are enhancing the way we experience art

Updated on: 22 January,2023 11:16 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Nidhi Lodaya | nidhi.lodaya@mid-day.com

With Van Gogh 360 making its debut in India, we reflect on the city’s immersive art scene which has been flourishing in the past year

How immersive shows in Mumbai are enhancing the way we experience art

Van Gogh 360 made its India debut on Friday. According to Tabish Khan, founder of the company looking after its production, finding a space with a ceiling height of at least 25 feet and a venue which was available for more than a month was difficult. Pic/Sameer Markande

It was like entering the sets of the 2017 award-winning animated film, Loving Vincent. The Van Gogh 360, an immersive art experience, debuted in India with its Mumbai leg on January 20. Situated at World Trade Centre, it is a huge set up, almost resembling a pandal covered in black cloth right in the middle of the parking space. At 10.30 am on a Friday, we imagined the footfalls would be scant but close to 50 visitors were inside to experience the work of the Dutch post-impressionist painter, Vincent Van Gogh.


There may be hype around this exhibition, but it is not the city’s first brush with immersive art. Last year, the Mumbai Light Festival, a brain child of art tech startup Floating Canvas Company and Maharashtra Tourism, stamped its name on this genre. Besides immersive art installations, they used light as a medium too—like the tetrapods at Girgaon Chowpatty which were a public art installation by light artist Ivan Kalinichev from Kyrgyzstan.


Once Upon A Time… was an immersive audio-visual experience by Padma Shri awardee Gond artist Durgabai Vyam and animation artist Vishwesh Menon, inspired by Gond folklore. Pic Courtesy/G5AOnce Upon A Time… was an immersive audio-visual experience by Padma Shri awardee Gond artist Durgabai Vyam and animation artist Vishwesh Menon, inspired by Gond folklore. Pic Courtesy/G5A


“Light as a medium has always been an interesting space that we wanted to explore for a long time. It can be played around with,” says Aagam Mehta, co-founder of Floating Canvas Company. Other exhibitions under this festival included Row by Tundra, a multidisciplinary new-media artist collective from Europe that specialises in creating immersive audiovisual experiences. The first act of Immerse, called Overture, an audiovisual show by visual artist Aniruddh Mehta and creative technologist Aaron Myles Periera was a combination of abstract visual and sonic odyssey. The second act, called Once Upon A Time… was an audio-visual experience by Padma Shri awardee Gond artist Durgabai Vyam and animation artist Vishwesh Menon inspired by Gond folklore.

“Many tourist destinations in India have had sound and light shows for a long time,” dissects Urvi Kothari, South-Asian art writer and gallery manager at Tao Art Gallery, adding that the medium is now getting its due because of new age experiences. “Immersive art is pushing the possibilities or contemporary art,” she points out.

Colaba Light Night was an initiative by St+art India Foundation’s Mumbai Urban Art Project which is free for all and is seeing crowds because of social mediaColaba Light Night was an initiative by St+art India Foundation’s Mumbai Urban Art Project which is free for all and is seeing crowds because of social media

But it could become a problem of plenty. With immersive art shows playing on repeat in the city, there is a chance of boredom setting in. But Kothari believes otherwise. “These experiences are not hard to get over,” she states. “I spent a few minutes every day observing  Row by Tundra and it spoke to me differently every time. Each experience depends on the angle, the placement and where you position yourself to get a different perspective,” Kothari says. A good immersive light installation, according to Kothari, is “one which has been installed in such a fashion that the person entering the dark room forgets whether it is day or night.” “For it to be truly evocative and transporting us to a new realm,” says Anuradha Parikh, Founder and Artistic Director at G5A, “it must have a clear concept and theme which goes deeper than the technical devices being utilised.”

But it’s all sound and fury, if not for the right space. “A ceiling height of more than 25 feet is an absolute essential requirement,” explains Tabish Khan, founder and director of Theia Enterprise India Pvt Ltd, which is behind the production of Van Gogh 360 in India. “Every time we take this project to a new location, the first thing we care for is getting a venue with high ceilings and one that is available for a longer duration. Any alignment issue can hamper the audience experience,” he adds.

Aagam Mehta, Aniruddh Mehta, Anuradha Parikh and Aaron Myles PerieraAagam Mehta, Aniruddh Mehta, Anuradha Parikh and Aaron Myles Periera

Mehta and Periera, who ran the immersive art show Overture, agree with Khan. “Immersive shows are often site-specific, so from the storyboard to installations and the set up are all decided accordingly. You either write a show for that site-specific medium, or reformat it as per the medium provided,” says Periera. The duo adds that it takes anywhere between 40 to 60 days to make a 15-minute show. “There are many moving parts,” says Periera. “You have to make sure that every I is dotted and T is crossed. If that entails making sure every spot on the LED wall is cleaned to perfection, you have to do it. The resolution and frame rates for all screens have to be checked multiple times for a seamless experience.”

Overture was complimented by Pereira’s jazz music. At Tarun Balani’s show at G5A Warehouse last year, where visual artist Parizad D provided an immersive visual, music too played a part. “The visual and sound narrative is critical and must be conceived of and designed together,” Parikh explains.

Tabish Khan, Thanish Thomas and Urvi KothariTabish Khan, Thanish Thomas and Urvi Kothari

St+art India’s on-going initiative with Asian Paints, The Mumbai Urban Arts Festival also started the Colaba Light Night last weekend with a series of light installations. “In today’s day and age,” says Thanish Thomas, festival director and co-founder of St+art India, “we have younger artists playing around with light. This makes the experience different from going to a gallery to look at a stationary canvas.”

With so many immersive art shows already out there, experts believe the trend will only go from strength to strength. “Tech intervention in the art space coupled with social media will bring more audiences to not just enjoy, but interact with art,” concludes Mehta of the art tech startup. “We believe art is to be experienced and not understood.”

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