A well written and directed movie, a great novel, a fantastic story all have in common that they take their audiences somewhere else. We appreciate these works because they allow us to travel to different places and times, feel what others feel, and experience new environments albeit only indirectly. Immersive art, though, doesn’t ask the audience to experience sensations vicariously, but to see, hear, feel and respond to them in very real ways.
Discover what immersive art is and how artists create immersive art installations that stir viewers’ senses and stimulate their minds in this article.
What is immersive art?
Immersive art is a work of creative expression that involves and envelops the art’s observer. Immersive artworks may be presented to the viewer (or participant) as an in-person or virtual experience. The distinguishing characteristic of these experiential art installations is that they present visitors with a multisensory, designed environment.
Along with its visual components, an immersive art display may incorporate a mix of sounds, textures, vibrations, or even scents. For example, Vibrations: A Sound Experience, created by MJ Caselden and Derek Hoffend, employed sound, vibrations and magnetism to encourage visitors to explore deeper states of consciousness.
Immersive art at the Color Factory invites visitors to experience the wonder and joy that art and color inspire. Various artists and creators contribute to each location’s installations to build expressive, joy-inducing, participatory art experiences. At the Chicago exhibition, a ball pit delivers tactile stimuli while Yuri Suzuki’s Bright Noise changes its tune in response to visitors’ actions.
What are the characteristics of an unforgettable immersive art experience?
The best immersive art experiences excel at drawing spectators into the created environment, taking them to a place conceptualized by the artist.
Artists and their art fabrication teams accomplish this effect by producing works that are:
- Transformational — By altering the surrounding environment, artists set the stage for visitors to suspend their idea of reality and embrace the artist’s alternative.
- Encompassing — Immersive art’s effect requires that the illusion be maintained across the entirety of the visitor’s field of vision and beyond. The experience is one of being within, not looking in.
- Multi-sensory — Human beings use all their senses to identify their position in space and time. By orchestrating these sensory inputs, immersive artists change our perceptions.
- Multidimensional — Whether created through special effects or physical construction, immersive art may be viewed and experienced from varying perspectives. What the observer sees or experiences will change depending on their position in relation to the work.
- Responsive — A static piece of art does not change as its viewer changes. Because immersive art is intended to convey a complete environment, it usually includes reactive features that change in response to the viewer just as the real environment does.
How has immersive art changed in response to new technologies and consumer behaviors?
In addition to being multi–sensory, real-world, physical immersive art is often large. This scale of the artwork and its various parts contributes to the sense of immersion. The addition of augmented and virtual reality components to a physical installation offers artists new ways to convey this sense of immersion.
Virtual reality and digital delivery formats have also enabled artists to expand their reach, delivering their artistic vision to people around the world through virtual means. During the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have used the digital immersive experience, VisualEars, to examine how combining visual and auditory input affected the moods of virtual exhibit attendees.
Artists also employ digital technology to increase viewers' ability to participate and influence their immersive experiences. Digital audio and visual elements that exhibition guests can manipulate make each experience fully engaging and fully unique.
Digital interactive installations expand the possibilities of interactive art installations beyond solely physical manipulations. Installations such as the ArtScience Museum’s Aerial Climbing Through a Flock of Colored Birds, combine both physical and digital responses to visitors’ behaviors to build an ever-changing, interactive experience.
Today’s immersive art installations also benefit from new fabrication technologies. Computer-aided design and manufacturing processes enable artists to produce and replicate free-form three-dimensional pieces. For instance, CNC fabrication accelerates the sculpting process for large works and delivers precision results. Bringing together digital and design technologies, artists can make their most innovative concepts real.
Immersive experience developer Meow Wolf employs many mediums, styles and technologies to deliver unique, immersive and interactive experiences and “open a new portal into the art world” to visitors at several locations across the US.
An example of how artistic vision, fabrication methods and digital technology come together can be seen in Virgil Ortiz’s installation, Sirens: Secret Passkeys & Portals, at the Meow Wolf Santa Fe location. Ortiz and his team used various modern and traditional fabrication methods to create this immersive environment featuring a larger-than-life sculpture of one of his iconic watchmen.
Build an immersive art installation and introduce audiences to your world
Immersive art installations captivate audiences’ attention, communicate artists’ messages, and enable people from all walks of life to embrace the beauty and wonder of art. Building these all-encompassing pieces requires carefully planning and execution, though. An experienced, full-service design and fabrication company can help you realize your ideas from design to installation.
Find out how amazing experiential art gets made by scheduling your introduction to Bridgewater Studio today. We’ll introduce you to the techniques and technology that will enable you to bring your vision to life and create a free, customized Project Success Map for your installation.