Van “Gogh” to Pittsburgh’s immersive art exhibit

Rio Scarcelli | staff columnist.

Rio Scarcelli | staff columnist

Nov. 4, 2021

A picture can tell 1,000 words, but what does that mean for moving art?  Presented with 

500,000 cubic feet of projections, 60,600 frames of video and 90,000,000 pixels, the Immersive Van Gogh Experience in Pittsburgh’s North Shore documents the story of the famous artist’s life through his most iconic works.

The combined efforts of creative director Massimiliano Siccardi and composer Luca Longobardi resulted in a 32-minute animated film of Van Gogh’s  “Nuit Étoilée,” “Café Terrasse sur la Place du Forum,”  “Un champ de blé avec des cyprès”  and “Nuit Étoilée sur le Rhône,” among others.

After success with their first exhibit in Paris, Siccardi and his team, Lighthouse Immersive, have now spread to over 40 locations around the United States and Canada. The flat rate for tickets is $39.99, and V.I.P. tickets include a cushion and poster for $54.99.  

Some minor adjustments had to be made among the Lighthouse Immersive team to accommodate for Covid-19 safety regulations, including projections of socially distanced circles around the venue.  Participants are required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

To make the show as large as it was, Siccardi said he felt it was important that the entire creative team had an envisioned story they wanted to bring to the table with Van Gogh’s art.

“I want [the audience] to meet the man who painted his final works at daytime, in the fields, swatting away hundreds of insects as he tried to convey his vision.  Or indoors at night, where he wore candles on his hat so he could paint long past midnight, burning with a passion to communicate,” Siccardi said.

The concept of immersion did not come immediately.  It took Siccardi 30 years to amass a crew to perfect the work that he wanted to portray.  What started with a single slide projector evolved into the stark transitions, animations and soundscapes that aimed to provide a new perspective on what Van Gogh’s art could evoke.

Paintings are arranged strategically around the film to coincide both with the locations he traveled to chronologically and the emotions associated with those times.  Starting from the Netherlands, the ink subtly, then explosively, paints a picture of his journey through Antwerp, Paris, Arles and most importantly the Sait Paul de-Mausole asylum.  

To enrich the experience, backdrops dance, water swirls and plants grow across the screen, bringing to life the emotions that Van Gogh wanted to portray in still imagery.

In doing research on Van Gogh’s inspiration behind his paintings, Longobardi said he got a strong sense of what music would best pair with the works and envelop the listeners all the while.

“The soundtrack of this work of art develops by following two main narrative concepts: the human and emotional condition of the artist and his way of expressing his sensitivity through creative action,” Longobardi said. “The music does not ‘overpower’ the images but, on the contrary, allows a diverse approach to them, one that is more personal and intimate.”

Siccardi and Longobardi found inspiration in one another’s work to create an experience that they felt would most entice the viewers.  While their collaboration on projects spans far past the Immersive Van Gogh Experience, it was during this that they felt a breakthrough.

“There has always been a very pragmatic approach based on a shared method, creative genesis and philosophical vision of art. I have been involved in 15 other immersive shows with him, but I think this Van Gogh, this Vincent of ours, is perhaps the most honest and true work done so far,” Longobardi said.

ADDRESS:  Lighthouse Artspace Pittsburgh at 720 E Lacock Street