Stage & Studio: Experiencing ‘Beyond Van Gogh’

Dmae Lo Roberts takes you on an audio tour of the immersive Van Gogh show and talks with one of its art historians and curators.

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Dmae interviewing Fanny Curtat through a frame in Introduction Hall. Photo: Richard Jensen

“Madness, pain, ear-cutting despair, desolate poverty, Van Gogh’s myth tells the tale of a melancholic martyr who took his own life in an ultimate act of revulsion. By contrast, to follow the evolution of Van Gogh’s works is to go from darker shades to the discovery of light and explosion of pure pigments.”

So begins one of the opening panels that welcome visitors to Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, the touring exhibit that has opened in Portland at the Oregon Convention Center. To say it’s a multimedia presentation of about 200 Van Gogh paintings belies the immersive quality of this experience. Imagine being at a museum when suddenly all the paintings grow so large they engulf all four walls and the floor, with you in the center of the swirling prism of color. Music enhances the out-of-body quality of stepping into Van Gogh’s works. That is Beyond Van Gogh.

Dmae Lo Roberts, in her first field recorded interview since the pandemic, took a tour of the exhibit – one of several traveling immersive Van Gogh shows – with Fanny Curtat, an art historian who’s finishing a PhD in contemporary art. She has been a consultant and art historian for the creative team at Montreal’s Normal Studio, led by French-Canadian Creative Director Mathieu St-Arnaud.

In this podcast, you’ll hear Curtat talk about the creation of the exhibit and what people can expect. She also details paintings both famous and not as well-known.

Dmae interviewing Fanny Curtat. Photo: Richard Jensen

About Starry Night:, Curtat says… 

“The whole show has different ways of organizing each scene. So in some scenes you’re going to have a composition. They’re going to be more static. So to also give the eye a rest, so that it’s not too disorienting. And then some paintings are going to have a focus on them and just really explore the universe. Of course, Starry Night, it would be almost cruel to do an experience like this without Starry Night in it. And so it deserves this focus, but you have other paintings that were chosen to also be just in the main light and to have this experience of, for example, when we have Starry Night at the Rhone, which is another painting, you sort of have this impression of what it would have been like for him to be surrounded entirely by this landscape.”

Photo: Beyond Exhibitions

About the ear-cutting Incident:

“And if you look at this particular painting, it’s a … self portrait with bandaged ear here. And it was, of course, [done] right after the ear-cutting incident. And you can see on the portrait that he has his ear covered with a bandage. And that’s to say to his brother, ‘I am healing.’ Behind him, you can see a white canvas that’s to say, ‘I am working.’ And on the other side of him, you have a Japanese woodblock printing, which is to say, “I am inspired.” And so this whole self-portrait was to say to his brother Theo, ‘I know I scared you. I’m okay. I’m recovering. I’m going to be fine. Don’t worry.'”

About The Experience for Kids:

“It is massive. And it’s really to give you this impression that you’re entirely surrounded by it, that the floor is taking you with you. And it’s a great opportunity when you see the exhibit with kids inside, especially in the scene we’re in where they’re just following the brushstrokes, following the light, flowing around them, twirling with the colors. It’s just magical.”

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Photo: Beyond Exhibitions
Subscribe and listen to Stage & Studio on: AppleGoogleSpotify, Android and Sticher. Hear past shows on Stage & Studio website. Theme Music by Clark Salisbury. Other featured music from Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. Check out their playlist on Spotify.
Fanny Curtat, art historian and one of the curators of the exhibit.

About Fanny Curtat: Curtat is an art historian and a PhD candidate at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Though most of her studies were completed in Montréal, Curtat also spent a year studying in Paris at the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Both her master’s degree and PhD were supported by merit-based scholarships granted by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in Canada. Curtat participated in different projects, from exhibitions to conference cycles. She was a member of the organizing committee for the Hypotheses lecture series in Montreal, in partnership with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Most of her postgraduate studies focused on the presence and perception of sacredness in art practices of recent years. However, her researches led her to explore a wide range of themes and subjects. Her work therefore combines her interests in history, philosophy, and museum practices.

About Normal Studio: Pushing the boundaries of performing arts, entertainment, and public installations since 2009, Normal Studio uses multimedia elements to transform spaces into full-on immersive experiences.

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Exhibit Details

Tickets start at $24.99, for children five and up, to $93.99 for the VIP package. Kids four and younger are free.

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, Nov. 19 to Jan. 9. Monday – Sunday: 10am – 10pm (last entry 9pm)

Get tickets and more info: https://vangoghportland.com/

Holiday Hours:
Thanksgiving Day: Noon-10 p.m. (last entry 9 p.m.)
Christmas Day, New Year’s Day: Noon-6 p.m. (last entry 5 p.m.)
Christmas Eve: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (last entry 5 p.m.)

The visit will take around one hour.  Up to 200 people will be allowed into the space for an hour at a time. Weekday options might make social distancing easier.

Location: Oregon Convention Center: 777 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Portland.

Health and Safety:  Masks are mandatory at all times within the Oregon Convention Center and Beyond Van Gogh exhibition. Guests are required to remain physically distanced from other groups while inside the exhibition.

In addition to state mask requirements, visitors 12 and older are required to observe at least one of the following safety measures: provide proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test result within 48 hours prior to attending the event. Children 11 years of age or younger are exempt and should wear a mask and observe social distancing of at least six feet between individuals.

Dmae interviewing Fanny Curtat through a frame in Introduction Hall. Photo: Richard Jensen
Dmae interviewing Fanny Curtat through a frame in Introduction Hall. Photo: Richard Jensen
The Entrance to the exhibit. Photo: Richard Jensen
Fanny Curtat coming to greet Dmae. Photo: Richard Jensen

About the author

Dmae Roberts is a two-time Peabody winning radio producer, writer and theatre artist. Her work is often autobiographical and cross-cultural and informed by her biracial identity. Her Peabody award-winning documentary Mei Mei, a Daughter’s Song is a harrowing account of her mother’s childhood in Taiwan during WWII. She adapted this radio documentary into a film. She won a second Peabody-award for her eight-hour Crossing East documentary, the first Asian American history series on public radio. She received the Dr. Suzanne Ahn Civil Rights and Social Justice award from the Asian American Journalists Association and was selected as a United States Artists (USA) Fellow. Her stage plays and essays have been published in numerous publications. She published her memoir The Letting Go Trilogies: Stories of a Mixed-Race Family in 2016. As a theatre artist, she has won two Drammys, one for her acting and one for her play Picasso In The Back Seat which also won the Oregon Book Award. Her plays have been produced in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, NYC and Florida. Roberts is the executive producer of MediaRites, a nonprofit multicultural production organization and co-founder of Theatre Diaspora, an Asian American/Pacific Islander non-profit theatre that started as a project of MediaRites. She created the Crossing East Archive of more than 200 hours of broadcast-quality, pan-AAPI interviews and oral histories. For 23 years, Roberts volunteered to host and produce Stage & Studio live on KBOO radio. In 2009, she started the podcast on StagenStudio.com, which continues at ArtsWatch.

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