Immersive art by 36° offers a touch of virtual reality to the labyrinth of the mind

Experimental works by the 36° collective break the boundaries between art, science and technology to let viewers discover a layered virtual maze.

by Dilpreet Bhullar Published on : Sep 15, 2020

The interactive play of light and shadow on the wall of a gallery or an open space, maybe until a few years back, was perceived as the limit of visual delight and experiences that could have a time cap. When the visually dynamic three-dimensional medium found its roots, the task to engage the viewers with real-time response and live interactions was heightened. In the season of lockdown, as the virtual experience and interactive arts saw a renewed boom, our definition of reality was bound to take a 360-degree turn. For art innovators, especially in three-dimensional art forms, this was an opportune moment to visually simulate mind space and let the audience have an immersive experience with a fresh version of reality.

Harking on the same, the France-based digital art collective 36° offers an immersive experience with a combination of images, a mix of light and shadow and electronic music by breaking the conventional boundaries between art, science and technology. Georges de Saint Mars of 36°, in an interview with STIR, walks us through the ideas that led to the conception of 36° and the story behind the name, “The name 36° is inspired from two ideas. The first one is the relation to 360° and the will to promote and create immersive artworks and installations that the audience can connect with. The second is inspired by the atmospheric aspect since the purpose of our organisation is to create an experimental exhibition in which people can get into a new atmosphere of artistic discovery”. The work Mind Traffic epitomises a similar line of thought. The immersive artwork complementing its architectural set-up aims to create harmony between the external spaces and internal thoughts. The Mind Traffic is an emphasis on breaking the lines of division running between the subconscious mind and tangible reality. The light here becomes a metaphor for the objective reality that enlightens the inner thoughts to pave the way for a higher state of mind.

‘Mind Traffic’ creates harmony between the external spaces and internal thoughts | 360| STIRworld
Mind Traffic creates harmony between the external spaces and internal thoughts Image: Célia Foussé, Courtesy of 36 degrés x OYÉ Label

To visually recreate the thought process behind an artwork demands dexterity of the artist as well as the technological manipulation during the stage of execution. Saint Mars adds, “The ideation and the execution process of our projects are always driven by a strong will. If we create an art event, we will first think about the main idea/direction we want to give and then we treat this subject with the installations that we create and the one we curate. We think that every question or answer we develop with artwork should have its very own visual, environment and musical identity. Even if we are following a direction, we let some part of improvisation in the creation. We keep this part of freedom and serendipity that can bring us to unexpected results”.

Inter-Conscience | 360 | STIRworld
Inter-Conscience Image: Célia Foussé, Courtesy of 36 degrés x OYÉ Label

The holographic sculpture Inter-Conscience is about a liminal state as the human mind takes a walk into the world of dreams from the state of consciousness. The cube of the installation turns into an in-between path that fosters the seamless movement from the objective reality to a personalised space. The images accompanied by the music evoke a “sensory symbiosis” that escapes the burden of real self to question the possibility of achieving a higher state of mind. The matrix of technology informs the conceptual art practice for a holistic experience: “Technologies keep evolving and it creates infinite possibilities for visual art. Its usage will create monumental innovations and transformations on the outputs and the experience possibilities. The future will be really surprising and exciting. However, I also believe that classical and visual art without technology will also continue to be part of this future without technology,” elaborates Saint Mars.

Lucid | 360| STIRworld
Lucid Image: Célia Fousse, Courtesy of Dimitri Thouzery

Experimenting with the ideas of inner spaces, the immersive artwork Lucid, unlike the previous works, which are en-route the unknown truths of the subconsciousness, sees the two worlds - conscious and subconscious - in the act of controlling each other. The images on the screen are not running in isolation, but our bodily movements change the shape and textures of the visuals. The immersive experience of the artwork interweaves the two – visuals and body movements – to reinforce the idea that two despites to be presumed as the separate spaces remain interconnected. Talking about the pivotal role of immersive experience that comes into play while participating in their creations, Saint Mars says, "Immersion has brought a real intimacy, we are not facing art anymore, as two different entities, we are now welcome into it. Interactivity also brings a great impulse to the experience. The audience is active and in the centre of the creation. At 36° we believe that the whole visitors’ experience has to be precise and rely on every detail. The immersive experience that we want to give has to be expressed from the first step to the last one, the way the audience is welcomed and every interaction they could have. The purpose of the immersive does not rely only on the artwork, but on the whole exhibition details”.  

Immersive installation Lucid | 360| STIRworld
Immersive installation Lucid Image: Célia Fousse, Courtesy of Dimitri Thouzery

With their works, Saint Mars aims to offer his audience, “The feeling of travelling somewhere else, an environment which can bring us back to our childhood, learning new things/skills about the curation direction and most of all: inspiring new ideas. We hope all those feelings will create unique and strong memories in our visitors' souls”. The labyrinth that is our subconscious mind has been a subject of interest to a variety of disciplines. When the digital art collective 36° lets the viewers have an immersive take on the thrills that our brain can offer, it would be of interest to see how their curation and artworks shed a new light on the parts of our mind that continue to remain a mystery to us.  

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