Metro Weekly

Virtual Holiday: “Imaginary World of the Nutcracker” at ArTecHouse

At the ArTecHouse Gallery, what you see, do, and even drink is digitally enhanced

Nutcracker — Photo: Hasnain Bhatti

“As a kid, I always wondered what it would be like if you were in the world of the Nutcracker, not just watching the performance of the ballet from seats in a theater.”

Now as an adult, Tati Pastukhova, who goes by her first name, is making her “childhood imagination” a (virtual) reality at ArTecHouse, the art gallery she co-founded with her partner Sandro.

“Visitors are really able to explore all the magic that is happening around the story,” she says, describing the Imaginary World of the Nutcracker. Developed in collaboration with digital art collectives Sila Sveta and Noirflux, the interactive, immersive exhibit is a marvel of digital projection and movement, with “augmented reality” enhancements only visible on a mobile device — from the namesake toy that appears to walk around you, to a Christmas tree with a stockpile of presents. In addition to the Victorian-era parlor room digitally filling the the gallery’s main hall via your phone, the exhibit also features a side room with a dining table, featuring food that becomes a figment of your smartphone’s imagination when you aim the camera in just the right spots. “I love the whole dining experience,” says Tati. “The calorie-free table full of candies and pancakes.”

The Nutcracker is ArTecHouse’s fourth exhibit to build on the kind of art-focused events Tati and Sandro have produced for years through their Art Soiree brand. ArTecHouse is the only full-time technology-centered art gallery anywhere in the world that Tati knows of. “We’re really excited at the opportunities and the platforms that we’re creating for a new generation of artists,” she says. “We’re no longer just passive viewers in the audience, or looking at a painting from afar. The technology allows us to be a participator and a creator of our unique experience and connection with the artwork.”

That’s true even at ArTecHouse’s “Augmented Reality bar,” the first of its kind in the states. “We have five cocktails that are augmented reality-activated,” Tati says, conceding that each drink loses its digitally enhanced luster as soon as you take a sip. “It’s an ephemeral experience.”

Imaginary World of the Nutcracker runs to Jan. 7 at ArTecHouse, 1238 Maryland Ave. SW. Tickets for timed-entry sessions are $15, not including drinks. Visit artechouse.com.

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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.