The Tribeca Film Festival has already come and gone, and this year’s event boasted of 20-plus celebrated immersive works.
Located in the heart of Manhattan’s popular Tribeca neighborhood, audiences flocked to the central festival hub at Spring Studios. Ever the significant effort of TFF’s dedicated curators, the immersive showcase included mixed reality pieces representing international, innovative, and diverse creatives who took their subject matter to new realms and new media.
For VRScout, I explored the festival’s XR titles with a discerning eye, critically assessing which narratives best utilized emerging technologies to tell their story.
This 180-degree VR film was one of the most compelling uses of the format I have experienced. Deeply disturbing and undeniably imaginative, I was the uncomfortable witness to those left invisible to society; those forgotten, those dismissed.
I was blown away by the somewhat simplistic storytelling—moving along what seemed to be a suspended dolly track, back and forth through shipping containers, each one containing the lives, and deaths, of several characters, all of whom were literally or figuratively trapped inside one crate after another until their stories start overlapping.
Reminiscent of other multi-universe narratives (Zbigniew Rybczyński’s “Tango” stands out), this nonlinear art film is painful and important. The use of 180-degree VR puts pressure on the viewer and takes the discomfort to a needed next level.
This virtual space, a touching dedication to identity and expression, was an act of love and consideration for the queer community. The experience offered a personal exploration of self, using objects (volumetrically captured and interactive) such as clothing, technologies, and teddy bears, as well as art up on the digital display.
Designed quite literally like a museum, the experience was an easily understandable one, as I effectively “walked” room to room reading each art object label. The through-line of artifacts within the museum interestingly ranged from “art” as creation, to meaningful items associated with identity contextualizing life experiences. I was moved by the quality of personal transparency each of the over 15 contributors shared about themselves to a global audience.
This haunting, poetic ode to life itself was an opportunity to experience the perspective of air moving through a human body. In a wink of reality, this multi-viewer experience had added depth as those of us participating simultaneously breathed in and out together in the same room as we moved silently through a larger-than-life depiction of the flow of oxygen throughout a single being.
Trance-inducing and eerie, Evolver is a dedication to the art of existing, changing in every moment and affecting one another with the seemingly most simple of actions: breathing. This inspired artwork on the cycle of respiration was best experienced through VR as a personal and emotional interaction bringing us back to ourselves.
Clever and stylized, Iago was an augmented experience not to be missed. Polished and consumer-ready, it felt like a doll-house-sized toy carefully designed with full consideration of a 360-degree engagement.
The next-gen music video tells the story of Shakespear’s infamous villain, Iago, reimagined as a woman. The exhibit featured an interesting and memorable physical set design for the festival. Numerous platform pedestals with sculpted, small, flat worlds, transitioned into a well-occluded augmented experience with a full-blown production scaled down to size.
While the music itself was incredibly repetitive and I was disappointed with the lack of interaction, the animated assets and production value were well-executed and perfectly novel.
Described as “a surrealist work of eco-fiction, an invitation to explore the human influence on the environment, and, inversely, an exploration of how the environment affects human evolution,” Platisapiens was a strange and otherworldly trip into understanding the potential consequences of merging with plastic waste.
Platisapiens took me on a strange and up-close experience into an abstracted bodily landscape, then transported me to the beginning of evolution itself. The sci-fi-esque narrative offers an upsettingly honest take on how we’re close to becoming full-time residents of the Plastosphere. The visual timeline was designed to be both historically accurate, as well as playful and engaging.
I found the use of VR to be compelling as I played the role of a spectator watching skin breathe up and down in front of me; I touched plastic particles and then swam in the depths of the oceans with ancient, stylized aquatic life evolving and morphing; changing yet again to exist within the human body, observing and touching plastic-parts bubbling over organic veins—a wholly unique perspective on a foreboding, environmental PSA.
Feature Image Credit: Marshmallow Laser Feast