Tribeca Festival is investing heavily this year on immersive VR experiences

A simple walk through the main competition section of Tribeca Immersive, the event’s relatively new showcase of virtual and augmented reality experiences, will clarify why the organizers chose to officially change the name of the Tribeca Film Festival to Tribeca. Festival. There is literally nothing about the selections that is reminiscent of traditional movies.

LGBTQ+ VR Museum
Photo: Courtesy of LGBTQ+ VR MuseumLGBTQ+ VR Museum

This shouldn’t come as a surprise: in recent years, every kind of cultural offering — both inside and outside New York — has come with an “immersive” option. People are no longer satisfied with looking at art, they want to be a part of it. Whether that’s a response to the years we’ve spent avoiding being part of an effort to mitigate the effects of a virus that has turned our lives upside down is one that’s likely to be a topic for quite some time. will be up for debate.

But if there’s one thing that this year’s Tribeca festival has made clear, it’s that not all immersive experiences are created equal and certainly not all are worth experiencing — no matter how much time we spent in our tiny apartments.

All of that is an indication of how much the art form has cemented its position in the canon of our art world: Just as not all movies are good movies, not all immersive shows are good shows.

Overall, Tribeca Immersive seems to be arguing that perhaps we should start to see form as a fixture, especially given the breadth of productions festival-goers can participate in this year.

For example, in “Evolver,” participants are given a VR set to enter a virtual version of the human body. If you follow the flow of oxygen through a person’s ecosystem (this person is producer Emma, ​​who just happens to be on site and is quite delightful on the outside too), the story is peaceful. This may also be due to the soothing narration of actor Cate Blanchett. Yes, even celebrities like to associate themselves with immersive experiences.

Mushroom Cloud NYC/Rise
Photo: Courtesy of Mushroom Cloud NYC/RiseMushroom Cloud NYC/Rise

There’s also a 10-minute holographic experience called “Zanzibar: Trouble in Paradise,” which focuses on two women who have financial success growing seaweed until climate change forces them to work in sea sponge farming until climate change kills them. forced to do so. .. you understand the tenor and meaning of the piece.

A particularly immersive experience within this year’s festival presentations most easily illustrates what form can do successfully. At “LGBTQ+ VR Museum” guests get a VR set and hand controls to enter, well, a virtual museum dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community. Once inside, the controls allow the user to pick up objects in the virtual world and hear about their origin, meaning and significance within the history of the analyzed community and beyond.

Planet City VR
Photo: Courtesy of Planet City VRPlanet City VR

“The ‘LGBTQ+ VR Museum’ was established to provide a glimpse into the historical events and real-life stories of members of the LGBTQ+ community by displaying 3D content of personal belongings (teddy bears, wedding shoes, etc.) to help queer normalize stories and erase LGBTQ+ history,” reads an official description of the experience.

Almost paradoxically, while the project is an obvious (successful) attempt to shed light on aspects of the LGBTQ+ world that people may not be familiar with, the story actually offers a glimpse of what the VR and immersive world could potentially be. when properly researched: museums that feel just like the real thing and transfer just as much knowledge as a “traditional” institution would, without the need for space and on-site staff. Add to that the ability to instantly reach anyone in the world, given the virtual aspect of the effort, and you’ve got a cultural venture that could change the way we see art in general for generations to come.

Has Tribeca Festival suddenly become the emblem of all things compelling in the United States? Absolutely not. Is it a big player in the game now? It would definitely look like it.

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