Opening This Weekend, Cleveland Museum of Art's 'Revealing Krishna' Exhibit Offers Viewers a Groundbreaking Mixed-Reality Experience

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Digital rendering of “The Story of the Cleveland Krishna.” The mixed-reality tour culminates with a life-size holographic representation of the original cave temple on Phnom Da, wherevisitors are invited towalk around an artist’s re-creation of the sculpture as it might have stood.
  • Digital rendering of “The Story of the Cleveland Krishna.” The mixed-reality tour culminates with a life-size holographic representation of the original cave temple on Phnom Da, wherevisitors are invited towalk around an artist’s re-creation of the sculpture as it might have stood.

The Cleveland Museum of Art’s highly anticipated exhibition “Revealing Krishna: Journey to Cambodia’s Sacred Mountain” opens to the public Sunday, Nov. 14, and runs through Jan. 30, 2022.

The exhibition integrates art and experiential digital design, including the groundbreaking use of mixed reality, to reveal the Cambodian masterwork “Krishna Lifting Mount Govardhan.”



In partnership and collaboration with the National Museum of Cambodia, the Cleveland Museum of Art somewhat restored the sculpture, which had been broken into many pieces which ended up in the NMC and CMA's collections, as well as another scuplture on the same topic from the same site and same era.

“The opportunity to restore these masterworks of Cambodian sculpture is yet another result of our recently renewed Memorandum of Understanding with the National Museum of Cambodia,” said William M. Griswold, director of the CMA. “This exhibition highlights the incredible story of our Krishna using immersive digital design. Unprecedented loans from our Cambodian and French colleagues reunite our Krishna with contemporaneous works from the same region for the first time in centuries.”



The exhibition aims to transport viewers to the floodplains of southern Cambodia, illustrating the 1,500-year and three continent antiquity of the sculptures. In addition, the exhibition unveils nine other large-scale sculptures which are on loan to CMA.  Through the integration of art, technology and experiential design, this exhibition enlivens these works for viewers to appreciate.

“The new restoration of the two important early sculptures of Krishna lifting Mount Govardhan resulted from years of collaborative research and generous exchanges of information among colleagues mainly from Cambodia and the French School of Asian Studies (EFEO),” said Sonya Rhie Mace, George P. Bickford Curator of Indian and Southeast Asian Art. “The Revealing Krishna exhibition presents a unique opportunity to see the masterworks from Phnom Da together, in their new, true forms.”

The interactive, mixed-reality portions of the exhibition incorporate three 22-foot-long projections from an immersive corridor with views of the canals leading to Phnom Da in a cinematic and audio landscape that was filmed in Cambodia with a three-camera rig and use of a drone.

Visitors are guided through an augmented-reality landscape blending photorealistic virtual 3-D models of locations and sculptures with ethereal motifs from the Krishna myth. Each visitor’s HoloLens 2 headset provides surround sound to add depth to the virtual experience, allowing the viewers to feel as if they are actually there in the hot and sticky tropical climate, along the canals of Phnom Da, traversing the expedition of Krishna from Cambodia to Europe and Cleveland, and back again.

Visitors must be 12 or older to participate in the HoloLens portion of the exhibition. There will also be a special VIP preview Friday, November 12, 2021, 5:00–9:00 p.m.

“Through immersive experiences, visitors will effortlessly understand the varied, multifaceted stories within this exhibition, learn the fascinating circumstances that brought the exhibition to fruition and grasp the magnitude of the Cleveland Krishna’s journey,” said Jane Alexander, chief digital information officer. “Meaningful innovation initiates relationships with the artwork, and the blend of the physical and digital will leave people talking about the art and the story it tells.”

Included in the exhibition in CMA’s Sculpture Gallery will be five works from the ancient metropolis of Angkor Borei and nearby sacred sites depicting both Hindu and Buddhist images made by Cambodian sculptors, sandstone being a prominent medium used by sculptors in Southeast Asia in the 500s and adopted by Cambodian sculptors nearly a century later.

Culminating the exhibition in the fifth gallery, the eight gods of Phnom Da are digitally reunited through interactive, motion-activated projections, and using animations of high-resolution 3D models, projected at life size including an immersive timeline—Gods of Phnom Da: Global Journeys along with a film installation narrated by director, actor and humanitarian Angelina Jolie and Loung Ung, the best-selling author of First They Killed My Father.

Perhaps adding additional context into the story of Krishna is “Life and Exploits of Krishna in Indian Paintings” in the Indian Painting Gallery, which features twenty-one works from the Indian subcontinent made between the mid-1600s and mid-1900s that place the pivotal moment when Krishna raised Mount Govardhan in the context of the conquests, miracles, and pastimes of his early life story. That exhibition is on view through Feb. 13, 2022.

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