Salvador Dali once said, "Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision." Perhaps the artist would've said something similar about virtual reality, which The Dalí Museum is now using to bring his 1935 painting Archeological Reminiscence of Millet's "Angelus" to life.
To help celebrate the opening of its new exhibition "Disney and Dalí: Architects of the Imagination" on January 23rd, which looks at the relationship between the artist and Walt Disney, the museum enlisted agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners to create "Dreams of Dalí" to give viewers a new way to experience his work.
Users will be able to move around inside and explore the elements in the
painting, and the VR experience also incorporates some of the recurring motifs from his other paintings in the museum’s permanent collection, including Weaning of Furniture Nutrition (1934), Lobster Telephone (1936) and First Cylindric Chromo-Hologram Portrait of Alice
Cooper’s Brain (1973).
Goodby Silverstein & Partners creative directors Sam Luchini and Roger Baran say the idea came about more than a year ago after the two Dali fans got to first play around with an Oculus Rift and saw the potential for using it with the artist's work. They pitched the idea to the museum. "They realized this exhibit would be a good opportunity to try and showcase a VR experience," says Luchini. "This is particularly true since Dali and Disney partnered together when making the short animated film Destino and individually were always looking to new ways to explore the intersection of innovation and art."
The next step was to decide how to showcase Dali's work in a VR experience, so Luchini and Baran began pouring over the Museum’s permanent collection. "Once we saw Archeological Reminiscence of Millet's 'Angelus' we knew that was it," says Baran. "We imagined what it would be like to be a small ant looking up at those enormous towers. We immediately started researching the painting and found Dali’s quote about the painting, 'I surrendered myself to a brief fantasy during which I imagined sculptures of the two figures in Millet’s Angelus carved out of the highest rocks.' It was the perfect match."
The painting was their starting point but the goal was to also try to provide a peek into Dali’s imagination. The challenge was to make something worthy of Dali with technology. "It required a lot of research both from a technological standpoint and on Dali himself," says Luchini. "How do the figures look from the back? Luckily Dali recreated many of the elements in other works so we were able to accurately reflect them in our VR experience. Technology-wise, we wanted to create a world people were free to explore as they wished and, ultimately, provided with a more engaged way to experience art."