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My Frida Kahlo Immersive Experience

by Chelsea J. Williams
Within the “Frida Kahlo: The Life of An Icon,” an immersive biography on exhibit through January 8 at 259 Water Street in Dumbo Brooklyn, you journey through the halls of the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

At age 6 (1913), in Coyoacan, Mexico City, Mexico, Frida Kahlo’s birthplace, she contracted polio, and her movement was limited. Twelve years later, she was involved in a tragic bus accident that confined her to her bed.
It is dark throughout most of the Experience, so the shadows and low lights further serve to absorb you in her art and key moments and milestones in her world, from birth to death. You can read and see her life in stages in 90 minutes, with each stage getting its own writings and images on illuminated walls. Upon reaching the end of the “hall” (and Frida’s life), you are met with a timeline of previous life events.

Chelsea J. Williams is seen here attending the New-York Historical Society’s “Black is Beautiful” exhibition of Kwame Brathwaite’s photography last fall. The acclaimed exhibition closes on January 15, 2023.

The Immersive Experience is itself a work of art created by the Frida Kahlo Corporation and Layers of Reality digital arts center of Spain. One of the most interesting affects was the layered looping visual depicting Frida’s body movements during the bus crash. Multiple projections stacked in front of one another create a synchronized moving visual with accompanying realistic audio.
You watch as Frida flies through the air with the umbrella she had returned home to get (resulting in her missing the earlier bus). You hear the sounds of the bus window’s shattering glass.
I was impressed with two other favorite sections of the Immersive Experience: the large wall projection of the injured Frida in her room. The wall shows a real bed mounted with ropes branching off and placed at the bottom of the huge projection. It represents Frida’s conflicts and challenges with fertility and motherhood. She is tied to a lifetime of infertility and has no chance to have motherhood due to her devastating injuries. We feel her pain.
The other favorite is the huge projection room with its full sound, photos, and film. Every inch of the space is a projected visual show. Everywhere you look, you see Frida. The floor, the walls, and the ceiling show parts of her life – with Frida and her art telling her story and her conflicts. The timeline comes alive here.

The use of projection throughout the experience is amazing, making the Immersion Biography a must-see for those who are lovers of Frida and her art. The magic of this is that even someone who knows nothing about Frida Kahlo or art, in general, will enjoy the experience of being immersed in another world.
How would Frida Kahlo have reacted to this immersion experience?
Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907. She died on July 13, 1954, in the town she was born in, Mexico City, Mexico.
For someone who grew up and lived before certain technologies were accessible to everyone (like the color television, which was invented {fun fact} by Mexican engineer Guillermo Gonzalez Camarena {1940), I assume that the exhibit would be very overwhelming to the artist. Yet, I also think Frida Kahlo would be blown away by this exhibit and the curators’ creation through the inspiration of her art and her life.
It closed this month.

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