Immersive art is becoming increasingly popular among metropolitan art aficionados. People tend to “escape” their mundane lives to a shimmering, sparkling environment where they are surrounded by beauty and wonder.
The city’s first “immersive art center” will be built in the Baoshan district, aiming to create a new cultural symbol on Shanghai’s art map.
“Due to the rapid development of society and the rise of social media, young people communicate less offline,” said Kelly Wang, who leads the project with her LIAN Cultural.
“We wanted to create a specific environment for them to relax, get away from reality and explore more possibilities in life, perhaps through a new entity.”
LIAN Cultural has been active in the literary and artistic fields for 10 years. Wang and her team have taken part in a number of major events, including “Phoenix,” an intimidating art installation created by Xu Bing, one of China’s best-known contemporary artists, at the Venice Biennale in 2015.
In the same year, she invited Serbian conceptual and performance artist, philanthropist and art filmmaker Marina Abramovic to Shanghai.
Wang, however, seems to have many more strings to his bow. Through its incubation and external collaboration, the company has released more than 100 well-known intellectual properties, such as literary and artistic works.
For example, the company’s star-studded stage production “Papa’s Time Machine” received critical acclaim in many countries such as the United States, Canada, Israel, the United Kingdom and France.
The Shanghai Daily caught up with Wang to learn more about the upcoming “immersive art center” in the city.
Q: How do you tell the difference between an immersive theater and a regular theater?
Unlike traditional theaters, immersive theaters vary in size depending on the scenario. The audience can play the role of both participant and spectator. Their interactive role in the show changes depending on the storyline, adapting to the needs of young audiences. In the meantime, we want to blur the line between the auditorium and the stage, so that the two can be swapped.
The piece can be enjoyed by the audience, who can sit, stand, or otherwise. Indeed, immersive theater is more akin to experimental theater which is presented via specialized techniques within the confines of a traditional stage.
Q: How much investment will this project involve? And how long will it take to complete it?
We plan to open this art center in the second half of this year. In terms of costs, the expense of building the theater is not high. We spent over 100 million yuan ($15.7 million) to fund some of the coins. I think the biggest investment will be the continued development, marketing and maintenance of theater and plays.
Q: Are there any specific design and equipment requirements for an immersive scene?
When an audience member enters the theater, they are already part of the play. Compared to a regular theater, lighting, sound and props require more. We try to combine high-tech and cross-media aspects to elevate the audience’s feelings and experience.
Immersive theater, in fact, redefines the relationship between the audience and the stage, as well as the mode of narrative representation and the actors.
Q: Does the center directory have any special requirements?
The small theater is only part of the project. Immersive theater here designates the extension of the play outside the theatre. Once the audience enters the art center, the “journey” begins. It is an emotional ‘in’ and ‘out’. Immersive and interactive parts are the basic traits of immersive play, which easily engages young audiences through location and experience. Their participation in the play which will have a profound influence on the creation of playwrights.
Q: As responsible for this project, what is your biggest challenge?
As a new art genre in China, it takes time. Immersion appears as a marketing ploy for some companies. Some content is quite empty due to the garish form, and viewers are unlikely to be moved. What my team and I are currently thinking about is how to precisely integrate the immersive mode into the drama. In today’s economy, how to root and sustain these new emerging names is a completely new topic.
Q: What are the other projects of this immersive art center?
In addition to the staging of domestic and foreign plays, there are plans to establish a center for youth artistic practice, a master class, an international competition, a unique intellectual property incubation and an international director’s residency project.
Q: How do you see the future of immersive art?
Metaverse and immersive experiences ushered in a new era. With the development of 5G, AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality) and artificial intelligence, “the human being” always remains at the heart. People are more likely to notice and remember the immersive meaning and experience. We have to innovate on a legacy and develop something significant and unique for the public.