Back to normal? It almost felt like it.
While the pandemic still rages on across the globe, the XR industry can count a clear win thanks to the dedicated team behind this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
As the first half-virtual, half-onsite art show of its size in the United States, the successful attempt brought a sense of normalcy back to in-person events. It’s clear that public mixed reality screenings may be realized sooner than later as the vaccine, and not the virus, spreads around the country.
For its 20th anniversary, the international competition boasted over 30 mixed reality titles which came alive across numerous online platforms and New York City venues in compliance with CDC regulations. Given the unique challenges the Tribeca Film Festival team navigated by choosing to attempt a hybrid event, a series of industry partnerships emerged. One such association included an official Tribeca-endorsed exhibition at ONX Studio, a new creative hub brought to life through the Onassis Foundation and NEW INC.
As a benefit to not only New York City’s mixed reality community, but the global creative arts world, the ONX Studio Showcase represented the myriad of ways festivals can be more malleable moving forward. Featured works included the multi-user mocap experience, Metamorphic, a playful visualization of casual conversation in NEW MEETINGS, and one activist-artist team’s initiative to bring black history to the forefront through Kinfolk, an AR experience that imagines larger-than-life monuments dedicated to those who have long deserved recognition.
Working alongside city officials and in collaboration with creators who were willing to accept the compromises COVID imposed on onsite installations, Tribeca Immersive leveraged programming AR titles, such Un(re)solved, Procession, Current, and others that could be experienced outdoors in specific geographic points or at a viewer’s discretion and location of choice. Many of these experiences are available to non-ticket holders even after the festival.
A notable mention goes to Breonna’s Garden, a perfectly polished, yet painfully raw tribute to Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old woman whose murder and memory became a significant symbol of addressing police brutality. The piece included a touching montage of photos, a guided introduction from her volumetrically-scanned sister, Ju’Niyah Palmer, and a bouquet of iridescent flowers which spoke words of love and mourning.
Storyscapes, Tribeca Film Festival’s immersive, onsite arcade at Spring Studios in Lower Manhattan, had seven installations in total—a minute offering in comparison to past years, but an overwhelming assortment given the state of the world. Hygiene regulations were followed closely, including CleanBox technology being utilized to sanitize headsets and controllers. Limited tickets were sold to the public to minimize the risk of spread for those who did attend indoors.
Highlights from the Storyscapes selection included a screening of Inside Goliath, a deeply reflective descent into psychosis à la arcade aesthetics, a deep digital dive into the Pacific Ocean to swim amongst augmented, endangered orcas in Critical Distance, and the haunting, interactive animation, We Are At Home, inspired by the work of Carl Sandburg.
Kusunda, a heartwarming documentary trying to revive a seemingly forgotten language, took viewers high into the mountains of Nepal for an up-close-and-personal interview with a local shaman and his dedicated granddaughter. In Lovebirds of the Twin Towers, Carmen Griffith, a survivor of the 9/11 attacks and a former employee of the World Trade Center, reminisces about her years riding the elevators all the way up and falling in love above Manhattan.
With hopes that festivals, conferences, and conventions stay open to hybrid versions of their former selves, audiences and industry personnel can bet that mixed reality events are almost back and will be better than ever.
Feature Image Credit: Darragh Dandurand