Since June, Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) has been playing host to Heaven’s Gate, video artist Marco Brambilla’s latest work, which meditates on the hyperreal yet empty spectacle that is Hollywood. Displayed on vertical screens throughout the exhibition gallery are seven related panoramas, surreal collages melding cinematic landscapes and silver screen icons that loop endlessly, representing what the artist calls “a video monument to Hollywood’s veneration of glamour.”
In a separate viewing room, the 3D video can also be experienced in virtual reality (VR) on HTC’s VIVE Focus 3 headsets. But now, HTC is leveling up that VR experience by making Brambilla’s piece the first exhibition to be presented on its new headset, the VIVE Flow.
Today, to coincide with Art Basel Miami, PAMM is unveiling an exclusive VR experience of Heaven’s Gate on HTC’s VIVE Flow, which is equipped with a cinema-sized screen and 3D spatial audio. The installation immerses audiences in Brambilla’s seven landscapes, each correlating to Dante’s levels of Purgatory, psychedelically recreated in 360-degrees.
Notably, the experience will be a participatory one. Around 20 users can join in the VR installation at once and be able to interact with each other in the virtual space. For Brambilla, such a communal experience can only enrich his work: “The VIVE Arts installation at Pérez Art Museum Miami will be the first time a large group will be able to enter the world of Heaven’s Gate together,” he said in a press statement. “This democratization of VR technology is perfectly suited to the tone of the piece.”
Why it matters
Since 2017, HTC VIVE Arts has been establishing ties with the arts and museum sectors — from its collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum for the Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser VR experience to its partnership with the Palace Museum for Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Sleepwalking in the Forbidden City” VR work.
Heaven’s Gate is the first project to deploy HTC’s new VIVE Flow headset, using it as an actual medium of expression rather than a distribution tool. With it, Brambilla’s work is newly expressed, offering for audiences what PAMM Director Franklin Sirmans calls “new ways of seeing.” Additionally, the new collective experience of the work ensures the VR format here is not an isolating one, but adds a social element to the cultural experience that’s surely been sorely missed after more than a year of lockdowns.
And as Sirmans told Jing Culture & Commerce earlier this year, PAMM has adapted its programming strategy to better meet the hybrid moment, with “a commitment to virtual components moving forward.” The Heaven’s Gate VR experience definitely points in such a direction, offering visitors fresh ways to experience, participate in, and connect with the museum’s offerings.
What HTC said
“We’re thrilled to work with Marco Brambilla. His forward-thinking, thought-provoking approach in Heaven’s Gate challenges the viewers’ senses, while pushing the boundaries of immersion when viewed in VIVE Flow. This partnership advances VIVE Arts’ mission, enabling artists to achieve their creative vision through digital innovation in the arts, democratizing creativity and preserving cultural heritage for the world.” — Celina Yeh, Executive Director, HTC VIVE Arts
Edited by Min Chen