'Korea: Cubically Imagined' shows the power and limitations of VR art

The exhibition uses virtual reality to put visitors in immersive Korean art and pop culture — with a few hiccups.

Korea: Cubically Imagined is an immersive exhibition highlighting Korean art and pop culture with future-forward mediums. Virtual reality and innovative projections take center stage.

The exhibition covers a lot of ground — everything from animated paintings to a BTS concert experienced through VR.

(What would a Korean art exhibition be without an Instagram-ready BTS scene, really?)

Some of the exhibition’s most exciting pieces use VR headsets to create truly engaging experiences.

Artist collective ROOMTONE’s In the Gray takes viewers through a surreal dream where interacting with objects is never what it seems.

Both In the Gray and the 360-degree BTS concert experience utilized Valve’s Index headset and controllers.

As a first-time user, I found the headset remarkably comfortable and the controllers pretty intuitive. The headset speakers are a nice extra-immersive touch.

Visitors are also greeted by the BTS concert playing in this enclosed screen space.

Three VR stations are available for the BTS experience. (Others only have one.)

Workers told me the BTS “army” (the band’s fans) lined up around the block when the exhibition visited Paris.

Another piece invites visitors to experience the iconic sets from Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning film Parasite in virtual reality. Yes, even including the creepy basement and the fully flooded apartment.

The Parasite VR experience utilizes the Meta Quest 2 headset to throw visitors into the film’s unique world.

Other exhibits utilize complex projection systems and wall-sized screens to immerse visitors.

This is EASYWITH’s Moment in Art. Video doesn’t do it justice.

The National Museum of Korea’s Royal Procession with the People brings to life King Jeongjo’s procession in the late 18th century, whereby the King showed off his majesty and power.

The animation is based on the Joseon Dynasty’s extensive record of the trip.

The tech used for these pieces has its drawbacks, though.

Any light filtering in — and there was plenty when I visited — breaks the immersive spell.

The projector system sometimes struggles with more complex animations, skipping frames and, again, breaking that all-important illusion of immersion.

The exhibition’s VR pieces also have some shortcomings, these due mostly to programming and hardware limitations.

The program displaying the Parasite sets had to keep re-loading as the virtual tour progressed, while Into the Gray suffered from texture and animation issues throughout.

Each piece is also limited by the number of headsets and computers available to it. On busy days, visitors may end up waiting in lines longer than the experiences themselves.

As a whole, though, Korea: Cubically Imagined does showcase how VR and other immersive technologies can successfully be used for art’s sake.

It’s eye-opening as an introduction to contemporary Korean art, too.

The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, is in New York City until May 14. It will travel to other cities in the near future.

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