A few weeks ago I was lucky to spend three days in NYC seeing theater and visiting a wide variety of museums and exhibits. One place that had been recommended by my students was ARTECHOUSE, which describes itself as “New York City’s innovative art space dedicated to showcasing experiential and technology driven art installations and live audio-visual performances.” I wrote about ARTECHOUSE in my upcoming book, Managing Arts Organizations, as a place and organization that might be pointing the way towards the digital future for the live arts, mixing the digital realm with live gathered audiences. There were about ten of us in the audience grouping that entered at 11am on a Saturday. We were encouraged to stop by the bar (at 11am) and have a cocktail before seeing the show. All of the signature NFT’s for sale in the gallery were already SOLD OUT, though we were welcome to peruse the live NFT digital displays in case one of these prize digital files went up for sale again.
A constant stream of NFT’s flew across monitors in the bar’s gallery, with specific images sporadically filling the screen:
Once we were ready, we could go down into the main exhibit space and sit, stand, or lie on the floor for the streaming show. The full journey through the ongoing projection took about 45 minutes, on three huge walls and the floor surrounding us. The ceiling and the fourth wall behind us were not enveloped in the stream, so we were never fully immersed in it. And it was a little tough to find a view that didn’t also include the shadows of your fellow audience members sitting or lounging nearby. Here’s a tiny sample of what we saw. Picture this 30 feet high and 30 feet wide in front and all around you:
It was trippy, to say the least. But it left me disappointed. For now the projections play out as sensory overload, as participants lie or sit on a hard cold floor. The show promised was to be focused on the changing landscape of New York City, which seems like such an exciting idea to explore through digital streaming visuals. But the result felt more like a large series of disjointed data streams, aimed at wowing audiences with their quick transformations more than taking us on any kind of human journey digitally. For now ARTECHOUSE, with its digital cocktails at the bar and gallery of NFT sales before the main event, feels more like a small window into the potential for digital art rather than art itself.