Q&A With the Creative Director of Anaheim’s Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

Photograph by RodrigoGaya.com/@Gayaman_photo/Gayaman Visual Studio

Mathieu St-Arnaud and his team at Montreal-based Normal Studios bring the artist’s works to life in this multimedia exhibition opening July 20 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

What should audiences expect from this experience?
With this experience, we wanted to create something very personal and unique for everyone. We wanted to create an opportunity for people to discover and rediscover Vincent’s work from a unique and surprising perspective. By going beyond the myth of the tortured artist, by stepping beyond the frame into Vincent’s world of color and emotions, we wanted to create an experience that would speak to everyone, no matter what you know about Vincent’s work or about art; it’s for everyone to see and feel.

Do visitors wander around at their own pace like a gallery or is it more of a guided walkthrough?
It is a free roaming experience, so everyone goes at their own pace. The first section (the Introduction Hall) is filled with information on Van Gogh and the experience itself, giving context and preparing the guests of their journey inside Vincent’s vision of the world.

Why Van Gogh?
First and foremost, because Vincent’s work speaks to every human being. No matter what language you speak or what country you are from, you would most likely recognize his paintings; he painted emotions and we all understand this universal language.

Secondly, for Vincent, painting was an act of healing, a way to respond to life’s hardship. The more life got difficult, the more color he would apply to the canvas. He sought to find beauty where it was: all around him, in people, in nature, in everyday life. I believe this can resonate with us all in our lifelong search for happiness. A little “Van Gogh healing” can only help with this worldwide pandemic!

How did you narrow down which art pieces to feature?
We started by looking at everything we know he has painted—seriously! We then simply went with our own emotions: what spoke to us, what we felt excited about “stepping into”. For sure, his most iconic and recognizable paintings stroke a chord in our hearts and are part of the experience.

How long did it take to create and execute your vision and how many people worked on the project?
In short, around 6 months full time with a team of 3 to 18 people, depending on the phase of creation we were at.

What technological elements are used in Beyond Van Gogh?
We use media servers to seamlessly blend multiple images and projectors to create the illusion of one unique image. We also use many image creation and production techniques we have been perfecting over the last 20-plus years.

What other types of projects have you worked on in the past?
As a creative studio, we like to take on a wide variety of projects. When the pandemic hit the world, we were about to open Cirque Du Soleil’s new permanent show in Orlando, Florida, in collaboration with Disney. We do a lot of work in live entertainment (music, comedy, corporate events) and on TV (award shows, talk shows). We also do a lot of virtual reality and extended reality work and we have worked in theatre, dance, and art installations. In short, we take on almost any challenge.

Find out more at beyondvangoghooc.com

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