Open Your Eyes to the Humanity, Audacity, and Mexicanity
WORDS BY EBONI J.D. FREEMAN | LIGHTHOUSE IMMERSIVE - Issue 8
Frida: Immersive Dream
Do you remember that moment between your dream ending and your eyes opening? The liminal feeling of being between realities lingers as you decide to wake up, get up, and start your day. Immersive experiences have the power to transport us to that moment where dreams rendezvous with reality.
From Toronto to Los Angeles, Kahlo’s work has the power to reach into the cultural consciousness of fans and take them on a multimedia adventure from Coyoacán to San Francisco. Frida: Immersive Dream is the format for reunification that many people have been looking for since the pandemic; what better than the exhibit of an
artist whose work, lifestyle, and public image combined to create a worldwide Fridamania. Frida Kahlo’s ethereal energy could be just what we need to open up, stand out, and drift into our wildest dreams.
Lighthouse Immersive’s Frida: Immersive Dream transports you to the center of Fridando—known by Frida Kahlo’s fans as the state of living like Frida. With more than five biopics, 30 books, 48 albums, 102 podcast episodes, and 1.2 million Instagram followers dedicated to her enchanting achievements, Vicente Fusco, Director of Business Development at Lighthouse Immersive, has identified a wonder star of the past who still lights up our sky. Fusco joins smART Magazine to chronicle the evolution of this immersive event.
Vicente Fusco by Kalya Ramu
What is Frida: Immersive Dream?
“Immersive Van Gogh was such a massive event, such a breath of fresh air, right?” explains Fusco. “Van Gogh set the bar so high. In our minds, there are very few artists that have such a…powerful and vast reach. There's just a few icons in the world of art that are pop by consent.” With her face adorning Etsy napkins and her likeness featured in Disney movies, Kahlo’s aesthetic shines as a beacon of remix culture—a starting point for burgeoning creatives seeking to produce broadly appealing content. “We had to really try and do what we've been doing in our other immersive shows with an icon like Frida Kahlo. Everyone will be very surprised with the amazing work that Massimiliano did with this.” Frida: Immersive Dream will be the third Lighthouse Immersive installation crafted by famed Italian film producer and exhibition designer Massimiliano Siccardi. Utilizing a genre-bending formula to craft the show’s layout, Massimiliano’s production personifies the compelling subtextual reveal perfected by Kahlo.
“For us, Frida Kahlo...is an artist that was so ahead of her time, somebody that is so relevant today, 75 years since her death. I feel personally involved being Mexican but, more so, if we dwell into the immersive experience, I think the immersive show is a new art form.” According to the 2020 Immersive Industry Annual report by Pseudonym Productions, the experiential arts began as recently as the year 2000. By capitalizing on the geographic concepts prominent in Kahlo’s 29-year oeuvre, Fusco crafts a layered experience across space and time. “In the show, there's a great representation of Mexico in its history, in its colour, in its strength, and in its folklore. This show will bring a lot of the elements of what Mexican culture is.”
What are the similarities and differences between Immersive Van Gogh and Frida: Immersive Dream?
“What Massimiliano does is he interprets the artist's work; it was Massimiliano’s interpretation of what he wanted to showcase on Van Gogh. And now he's doing the same with Frida. It's such a different mindset and such a different creation that it's a fantastic showcase, not only of what Massimiliano is capable of doing. It's also a showcase of what these immersive experiences can be.” Here, Fusco intimates new modes of narrative dissection between creator and spectator when presented with the nearly century-old masterpieces. Exhibit attendees will use the immersive landscape to identify clues, discuss theories, and uncover the woman behind the art and the art behind the woman. “I believe that the Frida show will have its own life because Frida’s life is one thing, and van Gogh’s life is something so different. It amazingly captures what Frida was as an artist and as a human being.”
Frida: Immersive Dream
Is the immersive realm ready for Frida Kahlo?
“When you're listening to music, and you feel emotional, it has a certain feel. If you're watching a movie and you get goosebumps, it's a different feel. The visual experience gives you a unique feeling. The aural experience also gives you a certain feeling. So too, do these immersive experiences give you a completely different feeling. It's a new form of art where it’s not only visual and audio, but the architecture also plays a very important role.” By describing the immersive realm’s role as a sensory playground, Fusco connects the show’s well-constructed visceral stimulations with the artistic sensations embodied in Kahlo’s work. “I think Frida had a very tough life. Frida had an amazing life. It's amazing what one could accomplish so many years ago. You see her travel, her experiences, all the people she met. She lived in the U.S. for a little while. She did exhibits in art galleries in Paris. She accomplished so much in such a short amount of time.” Whether it’s a stroll through the lives of people she loved—such as Portrait of My Father—or vignettes glimpsing into the vitality of passersby—such as in The Bus—Kahlo’s work captured the essence of her 47 years on Earth.
“And she also suffered a lot on a personal level. She had a terrible accident when she was very young. Her life changed after that because she never really recovered. I think she went under 35 operations to try and fix her spinal column and her pelvis. She's suffered a lot, and she obviously represented her suffering in her art.” By revealing the imperceptible impediments of living with chronic pain, Kahlo invites her viewers to stop seeking reprieve from anguish and start embracing brokenness. “I think that the immersive emotion that you get when we're talking about Frida, and what Massimiliano is going to project about Frida, has an amazing effect. The audience will be super happy about it. It's the perfect artist for this type of art.”
Frida: Immersive Dream
What is the importance of having a female artist fill the same space previously occupied by a white male artist?
“There's good art, and there's bad art in every art form. A lot of people ask me, what's your favourite type of music? I like good music; I like jazz. I like hip hop. There's good and bad music in every single genre. So that's how I see art. Frida is up there with everybody on a single artistic element. It's amazing that, additionally to that, you have a person that is such a strong woman. There aren't like hundreds of thousands of women back then that were so well known. She was respected everywhere, without saying a lot too; she projects so much power, and she projects so much strength. I feel honoured that we're able to represent that.”
The display of Kahlo’s power and strength comes on the heels of her record-breaking Sotheby’s showcase. According to NPR, on November 16th, 2021, Kahlo’s “Diego Y Yo'' self-portrait sold for $34.9 million, thus becoming the most expensive piece of Latin American art ever purchased at auction. Concurring with Fusco’s thesis on the breadth and depth of Kahlo’s standing in the art world, Julian Dawes, Senior Vice President and Co-Head of Impressionist and Modern Art at Sotheby’s, stated, “tonight’s outstanding result further secures [Kahlo’s] place in the auction echelon. She belongs, as one of the true titans of 20th-century art.” Fusco’s titan of Mexicanidad—also known as Mexicanity—offers a sandbox of mesmerizing possibilities and coquettish colour palettes. By capitalizing on a range of storytellers whose work transcends the known bounds of entertainment, design, and technology, Fusco’s team raises the ceiling on immersive creativity to new heights.
“At the end of the day, it's important that for us as a company of immersive shows, we bring something different. We want to bring different elements, different people, different nationalities, different genres. We want to do something that appeals to as many people as possible. By doing that, we want to bring in as much diversity as we can. Ultimately, we evaluate the artistic element. I simply like the art and what it brings to the artistic foundation and how it works with what we're doing in the immersive world.”
Award-winning writer and director, Vittorio Guidotti, is the Creative Director of Visioni Eccentriche—the Italian design team behind many of Lighthouse Immersive’s exhibits. Working alongside Artistic Director, Massimiliano Siccardi, Guidotti is a key cog to one of the world’s leading creators of immersive art experiences. He joins smART Magazine to discuss his approach to Frida: Immersive Dream.
sM | What do you find exciting and unique about working with Frida Kahlo's repertoire?
VG — When Massimiliano said we were making an Immersive Frida, I was thrilled. Frida is more than a painter. She represents women’s power and freedom. She is an icon of pop culture and that’s how we wanted to depict her in the exhibit. Her strong and direct personality emerges from her work—quite the opposite of the introverted and hermetic van Gogh paintings. We immediately understood that Frida’s show had to be different, which is why we decided to make it a pop exhibit. Immersive Frida has vibrant colors, a quick rhythm, and sharp animations. It’s a celebration of life, in all its stages. Suffering and death included.
sM | One of the challenges of designing an exhibit experience is creating something that is accessible to the general public, but also stimulating for art enthusiasts. How is Vissioni Eccentriche able to cater to these different perspectives, while also staying true to the artist?
VG — Keeping intact the image of the artist in our shows is always a huge responsibility. We take that very seriously and apprehend each styling decision extremely carefully. We spend a lot of time doing research, making sure we truly understand the artist and fully comprehend their work. But we also keep in mind that our exhibits are, themselves, pieces of art. We can’t imitate these artists—it would be a lost battle—but we also try to not be limited when it comes to showcasing their work.
Eventually, each part of each exhibit is filtered through our interpretation, but what in the world is not? Any form of art has no single meaning. Each visitor will give it their own personal, intimate purpose.
Our job is to turn the material of a specific artist into something else. Sometimes, in order to get our message across, we have to manipulate and rework the originals completely, so it’s hard not to get lost in the process. Personally, I think the only way to respect the essence of the artist, even in these circumstances, is to keep a connection with the emotions that are embedded in their art, because emotions are the only language that everybody on the planet, despite their differences, can fully understand and relate to.
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