Imagine entering a giant room with cascading, luminescent waterfalls. Or walking through a virtual landscape of forests. Or standing among infinite hanging lanterns and bubbly balloons. Imagine being able to draw your own butterfly and see it fluttering around the room. This is the kind of unique virtual art experience one can expect at Dubai's newest museum The Theatre of Digital Art (ToDA).
Filled with colourful illuminations and sounds inside a dark room surrounded by LED screens, the art displays move up and down, evolving, parading, dancing and morphing. Constantly changing colours, shapes and intensity, it telescopes you to a relaxing dream. There are butterflies and dolphins swimming below your feet. Balloons are bursting into colourful streaks of paint, flowers are blooming in fields, waves are changing their flow. You cannot help feeling part of the art.
Located at Souk Madinat Jumeirah, ToDA officially opened to the public on October 13. An art, education and entertainment destination, it utilises a unique combination of advanced technologies and clever storytelling to deliver interactive art, culture and science experiences. Transporting you into a virtual world of the artistic masterpieces of Van Gogh, Monet or Kandinsky, it combines all three formats of digital art: multimedia exhibitions, contemporary immersive installations, and virtual reality experiences.
"The idea of ToDA goes back to 2014 when Dubai was focusing a lot on art. We wanted people to see art not just on a wall or canvas, but on a massive digital screen," says the museum's general manager Gabriel Afrim. "Using the latest technology, we have 35 projectors that are mapped in such a way that it makes you feel a part of the painting itself. You can be an element in the masterpiece."
Khaleej Times got a first-hand experience of the region's first digital art museum and we can affirm, it's a must-visit. ToDA is divided into three different areas - the main theatre, the VR theatre and the 3D installation hall. As you enter, you will be greeted by stunning digital paintings. You won't be able to see the difference between the floor and the walls, as they have projections all over them. Selected works on large-scale display include Edvard Munch's Scream, Van Gogh's Starry Night and Claude Monet's Water Lilies. The duration of the multimedia show at the main theatre is 45 minutes.
Sitting on a beanbag, each 2m away from the next, I was immediately immersed into an enchanting world. I could view the room change its colour, sound, and movement with every artwork. There's no set course for enjoying this digital art, so just let your curiosity and imagination wander, and pick any path to start. In just a few minutes, you can experience a change of scenery, a burst of purple flowers here, a shower of yellow sunflowers there, whilst standing in the same spot. As the experience began to get surreal, I was immediately transported to a wonderful sensory world full of starry nights, water lilies, dazzling mirrors and lanterns.
But there's more. The second area is ToDA's VR zone, which includes a range of entertaining virtual reality and augmented reality activities. Visitors here can bring famous artworks to life through an immersive VR experience. With the help of special glasses, you are transferred to the artists' studios, where, by means of a joystick, you can virtually control objects. You can change the colour, scale, and shape of objects, and then enter your painting. Every visitor to the exhibition gets at least three attempts to create their own masterpiece. You can save your best painting and even post it on your social network page. I chose Shishkin's art studio, which transported me to the pine forests of his paintings. The VR zone was truly an interactive and unique visual art escapade.
The final zone was the 3D installation hall for kids, which allows them to create their own 3D creatures. There was a stand with colouring sheets of various animals. Kids could colour them, hand them over to the staff and see their creations come to life on the screens. Super kicked, I drew my own turtle and sent it off into the digital world. Meanwhile, some kids coloured fishes with crayons, got them scanned, and watched them swim around too.
Simply beautiful, not to mention fun, one can really get up, close and personal with art here. I left feeling creative and full of positivity.
For an engaging experience, try not to rush through the museum, and give yourself enough time to get lost in the space. ToDA can accommodate up to 500 visitors, but in keeping with current Covid-19 health and safety guidelines, operations will be conducted at a reduced maximum capacity of 120 visitors. Guests are encouraged to take photos within the museum, but be sure not to use a flash, as that would break the magic of the projection-mapped artworks.
The museum is dimly lit, with stairs and some pitch-black sections, so you'll want to watch your step as you go. It's advisable to wear flat shoes and it's not recommended for anyone with visual impairments and mobility issues.
The Theatre of Digital Art is open daily from 12-11pm. For more info, visit www.toda.ae.