Hirshhorn time-based media specialist and coordinator Drew Doucette proposed and helmed the initiative, which has seen three of ’s
works—All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins
(2016), Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity
(2009), and Infinity Mirror Room
(1965/2016)—translated into VR. The experience is accessible through a smartphone app realized in partnership with Samsung, which provided VR headsets and S7 Edge phones for use within the exhibition. It is exclusively available within the exhibition, and only available to people with disabilities who cannot access the rooms.
Through the run of the exhibition, headsets and phones will be administered by visitor services employees, beside the corresponding “Infinity” rooms. Doucette notes that they’ve made the process as seamless as possible. “They pull the cell phone out, launch application, put it in the headset, and hand it to the visitor.”
The bespoke app was created by an in-house developer, Cody Coltharp, who was on contract with the museum at the time. Using a 3D software called Unity (primarily used to develop games) he created simulations of Kusama’s “Infinity” works based on 3D scans of sculptural components of the original rooms. Due to the infinite loop created by the mirrors in two of the rooms, which would have caused the VR program to crash, Coltharp manually created an environment that mimicked the multiplier effect of Kusama’s mirrored environments.
“In planning for this show, we were trying to figure out how to allow as much access to this exhibition as possible,” Chiu explains. “We were thinking very carefully about the optimal viewing experience.” The museum has implemented a new audio guide with exclusive video content and an online timed booking system that will help alleviate the almost certainly long admission queues. (Nearly every Kusama exhibition in recent memory has seen visitors lining up for hours on end.) Most inspiring and innovative, however, is the museum’s use of VR, which is the first time the technology has been used at the Hirshhorn. In using virtual reality as a means of accessibility reserved for people with disabilities, it is an unprecedented initiative among art museums.