Have You ‘Rifted’ at the New Museum Triennial?

Last night, it seemed as if the entire New York art scene descended on the New Museum for the debut of its hotly anticipated Triennial exhibition, “Surround Audience.” Curated by Lauren Cornell and Ryan Trecartin, the show presents the work of 51 early-career artists in its seven-story building on the Bowery. And the hot ticket of the evening was Brazilian artist Daniel Steegmann Mangrané’s Phantom (kingdom of all the animals and all the beasts is my name), which had guests donning Oculus Rift goggles that took them seemingly beyond the museum’s walls.

Heavy on the technology and Internet-themed works, the show unsurprisingly had people snap happy on Instagram. And Steegmann Mangrané’s Phantom was no exception. Using 3-D virtual reality technology Oculus Rift, the artist’s newly commissioned work came at a perfect time.

“Oculus was looking for an opportunity to unveil its technology in a public way,” Steegmann Mangrané told artnet News as we were waiting in line to try out the goggles. “So this was the perfect project.” As for the virtual reality landscape, he chose an endangered forest in Brazil, a subject that permeates his oeuvre, since he had dreamed at one time of being a biologist before turning his sights on visual art.

When we slipped the headgear on, we were transported into and completely surrounded by a black-and-white forest whose physical boundaries appeared limitless and through which we could walk, as if in a video game. Curious young minds were eager to try it out, as lines formed around the artwork. We were there and overheard some of the quizzical and delighted responses. Here’s what we heard:

“I’m inside a tree.”

“Look, it’s a rift crew.”

“Experience the future.”

“It’s so cool,” (proclaimed almost every “rifter”).

“Imagine what we could do at our apartment.”

“Playing video games with this is going to be epic.”

“Don’t know what the f*ck is going on!”

“Have you rifted before?” (Yes, the technology has acquired verb status.)

Surround Audience” opens today until May 24, 2015 at the New Museum. (Check out artnet News'”Strictly Critical” video about the show: Is the New Museum Triennial Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?)

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