Last October, anonymous NYC street artist Hanksy — a portmanteau of Hanks, as in Tom, and Banksy — gathered 50 street artists from around the country for a takeover of a 10,000-square-foot abandoned mansion in West Adams.
From carpeted common areas to dilapidated bathrooms, nearly every inch of the home's interior was splashed with murals, including Hanksy's own, which turn celebrity name puns — Hamuel L. Jackson, Dope Francis — into visual art.
Called "Surplus Candy L.A.," the exhibit was open to the public for a viewing that lasted just two hours — then everything was painted over. But before that happened, in the daylight hours prior to the opening, Hanksy and company used a DIY 360-degree camera to document all three floors of art for the purpose of creating, according to press materials, a "virtual experience that gives indefinite life to a hyper-transitory art exhibit." Even though the show lasted only two hours, it would be available to explore in perpetuity.
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Last week, in a pop-up gallery on New York's Lower East Side, attendees outfitted with VR headsets explored the long-defunct exhibit, virtually and IRL. Hanksy surrogate Sydney Schiff explains via email: "The idea was to bring pieces from Surplus Candy L.A. to the space in NYC, so you have a tangible art exhibit coupled with the intangible experience of the VR. Cardboard mural fragments (originally used to cover windows in the L.A. house) were on display, as well as the DIY camera rig used (held together with rubber bands) and freshly painted pieces explaining the VR experience. An extensive bulletin collage showing a chronological progression of the L.A. event via photos and social media reactions was also constructed."
He continues, "Attendees could look over the distressed environment whilst waiting in line to experience the VR via headsets or the impatient could purchase customized glasses and view the L.A. mansion immediately. Since virtual reality is incredibly new to a majority of the public, workers were on hand to help navigate the public through the tech."
With a smartphone and a cheap VR headset — Google Cardboard is only $15 — anyone anywhere can travel to the not-so-distant past and explore the West Adams mansion. Arrows allow you to navigate from room to room through the house, and art credits are available, too. Sans headset, you can still navigate around the exhibit on a smartphone, tablet or computer at surpluscandy.com.
Schiff says, "This is something larger institutions should have been doing for years," and he's right. I have a hunch they're going to start pretty soon.