Bringing Van Gogh To Life

Category: In Focus
LINKOPING, SWEDEN — Paintings stimulate the visual senses, but now, thanks to technology, the experience of gazing at a painting is multi-dimensional.

Conceived and executed by Australian-based Grande Exhibitions, “Van Gogh Alive — The Experience,” a traveling exhibit, sees some of the painter’s most famous works displayed on huge projection screens as part of a uniquely engaging multimedia show. The artist’s paintings are inter-cut with full-motion video and photographs of some of the locations that inspired him between the years 1880 and 1890, and there are more than 3,000 images in all. 

The show is synchronized to a powerful classical score, and the whole automated production is triggered and controlled by Dataton’s WATCHOUT. “Grande Exhibitions had used WATCHOUT before on other projects, so it was the natural choice for ‘Van Gogh Alive,’” comments Dean Stevenson of Interactive Controls, Dataton’s partner for Australia and New Zealand.



“When ‘Van Gogh Alive’ made its debut, we built and supplied a 30-output system to drive content to all of the projectors. As well as ensuring that all the media are in sync, WATCHOUT also allows Grande to automate the processing so that a group of projectors can go from showing individual images to a single one and then back again. This is essential for a show like ‘Van Gogh Alive,’ where the element of surprise is key – you never know what you’re going to be looking at next, or where it will be!”

Rather than edge-blending images together, the design of “Van Gogh Alive” places screens a short distance apart from each other, with some screens at right angles and others in parallel. This encourages visitors to move around and between the screens during the show, exploring nooks and crannies, viewing favorite pictures from a new perspective, and immersing themselves in the vibrant colors of Van Gogh’s paintings.

“The idea of immersing the audience in art is key to ‘Van Gogh Alive,’” Stevenson continues. “You see projected images everywhere – not just in front of you and behind you but also above you, on the ceiling, and even on the floor beneath your feet. So the show really uses WATCHOUT’s image-processing capabilities to the full.”

Another key attribute of “Van Gogh Alive” is that the show can be scaled to suit each installation. Having had its world premiere at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore last year, the show is playing in Istanbul, Turkey, in Phoenix, Arizona.

“For the Phoenix installation, Interactive Controls built and supplied  a new system that has 10 multi-output computers running the show, each with its own licence of WATCHOUT Version 5,” says Stevenson. “As ‘Van Gogh Alive’ tours the world’ Grande will be able to tailor the system and use different configurations of WATCHOUT, depending on the exact configuration of screens at each host venue.”

Fredrik Svahnberg, Marketing Director, Dataton, comments: “Gallery and museum owners are increasingly looking to multimedia shows as a way of engaging their visitors in new and exciting ways, and we are delighted to say that WATCHOUT is at the heart of many of them. ‘Van Gogh Alive’ is a perfect example – a wonderful union of fine art with modern science that allows every detail of the artist’s work to be viewed in ways which simply would not have been possible only a few years ago.

“It is a privilege for Dataton to be associated with such a prestigious, inspiring and educational project, and we look forward to following “Van Gogh Alive” all over the world in the years to come!”

Images courtesy of Grande Exhibitions.


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