VR Art Highlights to Expect at Kaleidoscope’s ‘First Look’

First Look will unveil upcoming projects from premium VR artists worth watching.

Launched in 2015 as a premier VR showcase, Kaleidoscope has now shifted from VR festivals to becoming a funding platform to connect artists and studios with influencers and brands.

Co-founder René Pinnell said Kaleidoscope was created because in 2015 there wasn’t a place that showcased VR films and experiences—but now that major film festivals like Sundance and SXSW have embraced the medium, the need had been addressed.

The new need Pinnell said his team is working to help address is helping artists and studios fund expensive projects and make connections in the emerging field.

First Look will be the first event Kaleidoscope will host, and will include about 200 industry leaders and 60 or so artists, with the hopes of driving the direction of premium VR art and experiences in an innovative and exciting direction.

The following is a highlight of just a few of the VR artists and studios who are pushing VR art in those interesting and exciting directions, and who will be featured at First Look.

Eliza McNitt

Eliza McNitt’s work focuses primarily on space, on the playful and mysterious nature of the cosmos—and she said VR allowed her the ability to transport the audience.

“I was drawn to virtual reality because it was the only way to make people feel like they were floating in the stars,” McNitt said. “My work tells a story about the cosmos so I was immediately drawn to virtual reality because I could create these worlds that would transport audiences to places in the cosmos they had never been before thousands of light years away.”

At First Look, she will be displaying Pale Blue Dot, which she describes as “an exploration of songs of the cosmos.” The experience will be an episodic journey from the edge of the solar system back to the planet Earth—the ‘Pale Blue Dot.’

“It’s a journey about the fragility of our planet and the importance of protecting this earth that we call home,” said McNitt.

McNitt’s work is a blending of science, social issues and captivating visuals, like her film Dot of Light, that was released this year that shows looks intimately at the three female astronaut’s journey into space.

McNitt credits her success and creativity due to her many female mentors and influences. She said in comparison to the film industry, the medium of VR is more balanced and provides more opportunity to women to create art and be visible.

“I think that right now since virtual reality is the wild west everybody gets their hand at showing their talent,” McNitt said. “I feel that gender doesn’t play a role right now, it’s really about how good is your work and I think that women are really standing out.”

Tender Claws

The Tender Claws team, composed of Danny Cannizzaro and Samantha Gorman are newer to Kaleidoscope than some of the artists at First Look, but have been partners for years and are optimistic about what the platform will do for some of their projects in the works.

Tender Claws will display two VR experiences currently nearing completion. The first is Virtual Virtual Reality, a three-hour narrative game experience which imagines an alternative reality many fear VR and advancing AI could take us.  

You play as a character whose identity, as with most everyone in this alternative universe, is uploaded onto a server and you can merge your consciousness with other characters in the game.

“It is all about our desires to go deeper and deeper into layers of reality,” Gorman said. “[In the game] you start out where you work for a company that is basically what humans do after AI takes all of our jobs […] and the reality gradually breaks down.”

Another project Tender Claws will be showcasing is almost the polar opposite in scope. Inspired by the paintings of George W. Bush, George in the Tub is a brief experience in which you don a headset and become George W. Bush sitting in a bathtub painting watercolors.

We depicted all of these things from the source material which was also kind of an interesting challenge,” said Cannizzaro. “We are trying to recreate a space that doesn’t have correct perspective and a strangeness that makes it look like you are in the oil painting.”

Both Cannizzaro and Samantha Gorman create art in various mediums but say the idea needs to be right in order to be transported into VR.

“As a writer it’s important to think of stories spatially instead of linearly and it’s a different design frame of mind,” Gorman said. “As part of our artistic philosophy we are not interested in importing other things into VR just straight, we think that things have to be really designed for the medium but there has to be significant thought into how to […] make it make sense.”


The artists collaborating within Movements are still in the early stages of the developing their VR experience, and are looking toward First Look for the opportunity for funding and distribution.

Movements is part of the Kaleidoscope Development Showcase, and is a 10-to-15-minute experience which allows the user to experience and create music both physically and visually. Each movement of your body creates a new sound and visualization of that sound.

“It is a very playful experience; it is not like trying to learn an instrument—it is not rigorous,” said Michael Catalano. “With most interactive experiences we are used to interacting with our thumbs or our fingers but this is with your whole body and is something anybody could pick up and try and explore.”

Movements, directed by Catalano and Elliot Cole is inspired by the connection between sound and the body, and by the capacities of the medium of virtual reality itself.

“All art forms are an attempt at making some kind of virtual reality, you are trying to make a picture that you believe is really there, write a story that makes something happen in your imagination,” said Cole, who has a PhD in algorithmic music generation. “[VR] is such a big wide open space like the beginning of cinema or the beginning of the novel. It is exciting to me because of this big wide open space.”

First Look will take place Sept. 20 and 21, 2017 in Los Angeles.

More information on how to register can be found here.

About the Scout

Allison Hollender

Allison is a Bay Area journalist reporting for VRScout. Follow her attempts at jokes @alleyrenee16.

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