Art: A 'virtual reality space' debuts in Moscow

click to enlarge Andy Behrle talks about his art work, "hydrodome," making its debut at the Prichard Art Gallery in Moscow. - GEOFF CRIMMINS
Geoff Crimmins
Andy Behrle talks about his art work, "hydrodome," making its debut at the Prichard Art Gallery in Moscow.

MOSCOW -- Artist Andy Behrle imagined a place where one can go to experience a moment in time from anywhere on Earth.

That place is the “hydrodome,” which Behrle recently constructed within the University of Idaho Prichard Art Gallery in Moscow. It’s like a cross between an igloo, greenhouse and planetarium, but it’s none of these things and more.

“It’s a virtual reality space of sorts,” said Behrle, dressed in a red T-shirt with a drawing of a ninja riding a bicycle.

Projectors cast images into the more than 12-foot-tall geodesic dome encased in heat-wrapped, transparent plastic. At the moment those images are from a GoPro camera dropped in an underwater stream. Tiny silver fish dart by and plants sway in an invisible current. The dome has a frost-like sheen, giving everything an other-worldly feel whether it’s experienced from the outside or from within.

After a while, the images flow into another aquatic scene. Behrle wants to collect video from researchers in different fields. He envisions live streaming from a coral reef or the International Space Station.

“People are going to come to me with ideas and I’m open to bringing their ideas to the dome,” said the Yakima Valley-based artist, who sees it as a place for people to experience the beauty and abstractness of different environments and consider how we inhabit space.

The “hydrodome” stands at the intersection of art, technology and architecture,” said Roger Rowley, the gallery’s director.

Built with lumber strips, the dome is 20 feet in diameter. A temporary wall was added to the gallery’s west side to control light and noise coming in from the street.

“There are a lot of artists who are making their paintings and photographs bigger and bigger. They talk about overwhelming the viewer and immersive experiences. This one really is an immersive experience. On certain levels it’s completely immersive,” Rowley said, comparing the dome’s ambiance to a meditative experience.

Behrle has exhibited throughout the Northwest and nationally. This is the debut of “hydrodome,” which has been more than four years in the making. Behrle’s series “Digital Light,” which includes video wallpaper, is also on exhibit at the gallery through Oct. 23.

If You Go

What: Andy Behrle’s “hydrodome”

When: Through Oct. 23

Where: Prichard Art Gallery, 414 S. Main St., Moscow

Cost: Free

Of Note: An artist’s reception is from 5-7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26, at the gallery. Behrle will speak at 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25 at the University of Idaho Teaching and Learning Center, Room 40.

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