Digital Nights Wellington – Van Gogh Alive in Odlins Plaza on Thursday evening, before it opens to the public on Friday.
Kate Green wanders through a multi-sensory experience celebrating Vincent van Gogh before the digital exhibition opens on Friday night.
This is Van Gogh as you’ve never seen him before.
Far from the experience of stepping quietly through silent galleries, staring thoughtfully at perfectly framed pieces, this exhibition is an immersive experience.
Lasting about 40 minutes, animated projections of artwork, letters and photographs take you on a chronological journey through Van Gogh’s life.
The art moves around the walls of the three-storey-high shipping containers on all sides, art, words and light dancing on the walls as the music swells and shifts.
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It begins with a series of self-portraits, artworks of his home in the Netherlands, then his move to France, where the paintings reflect one of the happiest times of his life.
In these parts the images are joyous, yellow and gold on all sides, but they become darker as the artist’s mental health declines.
He spends a short time in a Saint-Rémy asylum, during which time the paintings are frenetic and dreamlike.
Brought to New Zealand by WellingtonNZ, the exhibition will run for two months, until October 30.
Assistant production manager Bridget Carpenter said 52 containers were used to support about 350 tonnes of weight, 21 projectors and 12 speakers.
“The technical side has been a real collaboration,” she said, with the crew from creators Grande Exhibitions in Melbourne liaising with the team on the ground in Wellington, through message, photos, and video calls – like a “project manager phone-a-friend”.
“We adapted to what we needed, which ended up, on a rainy night, being a camera mounted to a car showing them what we needed.”
The team had a few late nights, working 6pm to midnight most days since August 13. “The construction rolled out of here at about 3pm today.”
Production manager Elliott Harris said there had been 70 staff on the project, from builders, electricians, riggers, audio and visual technicians, to front-of-house staff, many of whom had been unemployed in the arts due to Covid.
”I think we’re feeling pretty stoked to just be able to come to work,” he laughed.
This experience has travelled to more than 50 cities across the globe, from Abu Dhabi to Xiamen, but Wellington is the first to host the experience in the night sky.
Sessions, four per evening, had been planned to accommodate up to 300 people, but numbers had to be reduced to 100 each session for dates prior to September 6, when the alert levels would be reassessed by Government. Tickets are $19.50.
Wellington NZ events manager Warrick Dent said they had refunded 900 people with 2000 tickets since the announcement, but nearly everyone had rebooked – the numbers today were up compared to the day before the refunds.
In the enclosed space of the makeshift gallery, the music and the cold make the images feel crisper, and the lived experience of Van Gogh’s life almost tangible.
“I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.” – Vincent Van Gogh