Immersive experience: When the future makes the past present [OPINION]


Our old stones are expensive, but could they pay off? Since the Notre-Dame de Paris fire, two remarkable exhibitions show that the way of visiting a monument is changing thanks to technologies imported from video games.

The first, at Espace Grande-Arche in La Défense, is called Éeternal Notre-Dame and is defined as « an immersive virtual reality expedition ». The other, hosted by the Collège des Bernardins (Paris V), is called The Increased Exhibition, Notre-Dame de Paris. Both deserve their success. Their concept is very different, although both present themselves as " immersive”. Eternal Our Lady is sensational. Increased Exposure is didactic.

Let's start with the first, funded by Orange: equipped with a virtual reality headset and a backpack, we enter a hall to walk around. The 3D landscape suddenly comes to life. The immersion is total. The guaranteed effect. An avatar guides and speaks to the visitor. We walk on squares with a blue border to light up the various stages of the course. On three occasions, an “elevator” “takes” you up to the vault and into the framework, at the top of the towers and under the bells. In itself, the concept is not original. It's like a guided tour. 3D does just discover in 45 minutes what we could never see, either because we go back in time, or because the visitor does not have access to it.

Does moving still have a meaning?  Whether you are in Shanghai or Houston, all you have to do is go into a hall to have the feeling of being on the Ile de la Cité. Without carbon impact. This remote immersion offers a response to overcrowding and climate change. Mass tourism is no more sustainable. The crowd is not just a source of discomfort; it degrades the monuments and distorts their spirit, as at Versailles. It also ransacks natural sites such as the Pointe du Raz (saved from trampling by the Conservatoire du littoral). Ultimately, will it be necessary to curb the mobility of the less wealthy in the name of the survival of the planet?

Beyond the ecological dimension, there is the power of the virtual, unlimited. The company Amaclio Productions emphasizes that its experience encourages people to visit a place rather than deterring them from going there. Certainly. But face-to-face tourism is full of constraints. Will our descendants still have the idea and the desire to wander in front of cold stones, when a screen gives them access to everything without moving?

Let's move on to the other exhibition, that of the Bernardins. Funded by L'Oreal, The Increased Exhibition, Notre-Dame de Paris equips you with the HistoPad, already used in castles like Falaise, Chambord or Loches but also in the US museum of Sainte-Mère-Eglise. This tablet, thanks to its interactive functionalities, leaves the freedom to the visitor to explore what he wants. 22 4×3 panels, installed in one half of the nave, mark out the chronological route. Each time, you scan a “time door” to open the corresponding chapter. Again, the concept is not original. It is a variation of audioguides. But the effect is multiplied by the mass of information provided by the contextual menus and the computer graphics of incredible finesse.

The route begins with the fire of April 2019. We turn around the cathedral at any time of the drama and at 360 degrees. Whether it's the sense of the smoke or the maneuvers of the firefighters, everything is faithful. And the other panels are to match: in the 6th century, we plunged into the XNUMX-meter trenches dug in the Ile de la Cité to support the pillars of the future building. This district is revealed from the angle of absolutely original perspectives, such as the one overlooking the facade of the old Saint-Étienne church or the one showing the extent of the basement site.

The HistoPad forces guides to rethink themselves. After a rebellion by the staff at Chambord, which delayed its start-up, the guides generally appropriated it to liven up their performance.

To the Bernardines, a panel magnifies the Coronation of Napoleon by David in 1804. Did you know that his mother, Letizia Bonaparte, was not present there and that the fictional character to the right of the emperor takes on the features of Julius Caesar, etc. ? Thanks to the start-up Histovery, augmented reality brings to life works frozen in hieratic splendour. We enter the painting to also see the landscape that it does not show. 75% of the 50000 visitors had never been to Les Bernardins. The family exhibition seduces even the grandparents.

Are these two immersive experiences concurrent? That of the Grande-Arche is breathtaking but requires handling heavy equipment and having a dedicated space. That of the Bernardins is both richer and more limited, the tablet not disorienting as much as the virtual helmet. The monuments will choose only one experience, so that they do not have to manage several flows within an audience that might not find their way between the two offers.

Louis Daufresne

source: Knowledge of the Arts

This article is published from Selection of the day.

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