#1197: Myriam Achard’s Industry-Leading, Immersive Curation for Montreal’s Phi Centre

Myriam Achard is the Chief of New Media Partnership as well as PR Officer at Montreal’s Phi Centre. Part of Achard’s job is to travel around the work searching for the best immersive storytelling, art, music at festivals and gatherings around the world. She’s on the lookout for new talent to bring to the Phi Centre, but also help make connections for immersive artists who are trying to find a viable pathway from immersive festivals into the broader consumer market via location-based experiences and museum contexts like the ones that Achard has been helping to create. It’s a vital bridge from the immersive festival circuit into a more bespoke phase of LBEs and museums before these pieces can be more fully optimized, ported, and marketed to a broader consumer audience in the process that Astrea’s Danielle Giroux broke down to me in a previous episode.

Phi Studio was a key collaborator with Felix & Paul in bringing The Infinite location-based experience to audiences in Montreal, Houston, Tacoma/Seattle, and San Francisco as I explored in a conversation with Phi Studio executive producer Julie Tremblay. Achard was also instrumental in bringing Punchdrunk’s Believe Your Eyes to an Phi Gallery exhibition in Venice during Venice VR Expanded (now Venice Immersive) in 2019. She said that the pandemic slowed down a number of other location-based experiences they were planning on launching in 2020, and so their LBE has slowed down a little bit, but they continue to travel with The Infinite and continue to travel with Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s CARNE y ARENA.

Overall, Archard is one of the leading immersive storytelling curators in the world as the Phi Centre continues to bring some of the most cutting-edge and award winning immersive art to Montreal and increasingly other locations around the world. She is proving that audiences are hungry for and really resonate with these types of immersive stories, immersive art, and immersive experiences outside of the festival context, and I’m really exited to hear more about their plans to expand their physical footprint in 2026 and continue to produce experiences, cultivate emerging talent, and curate the best of from the festival circuit.

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR Podcast. It's a podcast that looks at the future of spatial computing and the structures of immersive storytelling. You can support the podcast at patreon.com slash voices of VR. So continuing on my 24 episode series of South by Southwest, Today's episode is with Miriam Achar, who's the chief media partnership and PR officer at the FI Center. The FI Center is an art gallery that's based in Montreal, and they have lots of really amazing different exhibitions there. In fact, they're probably one of the leading XR exhibition spaces in the context of a museum, because they not only have been doing amazing exhibitions for years and years and years and years, but they're also one of the investors of Felix and Paul, and they were one of the co-producers of the Infinite Experience. They had a number of different location-based experiences that they've produced and exhibited around the world. They had a whole exhibition in Venice when I first went in 2019. And so, Yeah, they're really at the forefront of looking at these immersive stories that are showing a lot of times at these different festivals. And so Miriam is often, I actually literally see her like at every single different immersive festival that I go to. She's there checking out as much of the program as she can possibly see, talking to the different creators, making different connections, and helping to bring some of these different pieces that are shown at these different festival exhibitions back into Montreal at the Phi Center. They're working on creating this whole new exhibition center in 2026 and so I get a sense of you know all the different things that she's going to and all the different places that she goes to to be able to curate and do this. It's basically like a dream job to be able to go into all these different places to see all the different work and to help to bring the best of that work back into Montreal and she is one of the most prominent immersive curators in the context of these exhibition location-based experiences and these museum contexts that is happening there at the FI Center. And lots of other things that are happening with both commissioning different artists. And yeah, there's just a lot of ways that she's helping to support the larger ecosystem of immersive storytelling by providing exhibition space, paying artists, and to help to provide commissions and doing all sorts of other stuff of just generally supporting the immersive storytellers within the immersive industry. So we're covering Miriam's journey into XR and all the things that she's doing there at the Phi Center on today's episode on the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Miriam happened on Tuesday, March 14th, 2023 at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:02:36.565] Myriam Achard: My name is Myriam Achar and I'm Chief New Media Partnership and PR Officer at FI. FI is an ecosystem based in Montreal. We have a foundation for contemporary art called the FI Foundation for Contemporary Art that's been around for 15 years. We have the FI Center, which is a physical space dedicated to presenting experiences, exhibitions that are at the intersection between art and technology. It's been around for 10 years. Then we have PHY Studio that's been around now for I think four years. PHY Studio is really the entity that is producing works. Our latest large-scale production is called The Infinite that was launched in Montreal in 2021, that went after that to Houston, then to Tacoma, Seattle, is presently in San Francisco, and it's a collaboration between Felix and Paul Studio and PHY. Phi Studios also did a joint venture with Alejandro Iñárritu and Immersion Collective to bring back Carney Arena, the VR piece directed by Iñárritu, on the road. It is currently also in San Francisco alongside The Infinite and will travel again for other locations to be announced. And, last but not least, we will be opening a new space in Montreal in 2026, hopefully maybe 2027, called PHI Contemporary, that will allow us to bring under one roof what we do right now in two different physical locations. It will be approximately 80,000 square feet of exhibition spaces, as much as for art and technology, but also for contemporary art. So that's the PHI ecosystem.

[00:04:11.205] Kent Bye: Yeah, I know you've been at the heart of almost literally every immersive festival I've been to. I think I've run across you and see you're really at the forefront of seeing a lot of work that's been out there. And so maybe just give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into doing what you do.

[00:04:28.165] Myriam Achard: So I've been working with Phoebe Greenberg, who is the founder of FI for now, it's going to be 17 years. When I started to work with her actually, just a couple of weeks before starting with her, I left a job where I felt, you know, I went through, I had It was done, and I was doing PR for a music festival. And I really needed a break. I thought I would go and travel. And then, somehow, I bumped into her in Montreal, and she said, you're not going nowhere. You're going to come and work with me. So I'm coming. I've always, you know, evolved in the cultural spheres. But my background, like really what I studied, is actually I'm a German teacher.

[00:05:10.176] Kent Bye: I had no idea.

[00:05:11.858] Myriam Achard: I know, not many people know, so that's what I studied. But I really, when I started to work with Phoebe, first with the Contemporary Art Foundation and then when she opened the Phi Center, I really saw an opportunity of... I mean, I've been always interested by new things. And, you know, like we started to work with Felix and Paul and I was really new at that. I mean, that's 10 years ago. VR was not what it is right now. And I saw the endless possibilities that virtual at that time it was we were talking about VR, not all XR, AR and all those are. But I saw the really the, as I said, the opportunity. And I saw that Wi-Fi could become a destination. And we started really small in Montreal at the Phi Center by showing, giving access to Felix and Paul's work in virtual reality on a free basis. And we saw that people were like, mind, like, you know, people were saying like, we never saw something like that. And that's how I, myself, I crafted my position, I have to say. And I'm very lucky to work with Phoebe Greenberg, who's really like, give me the entire freedom, but also she knows I'm doing it well, and that I position Montreal, FI, Quebec, Canada, on the digital creativity industry scene.

[00:06:28.013] Kent Bye: Yeah. So what exactly is your position? Because are you a curator? Are you in the marketing, PR? What is the title you give yourself? And maybe just give me a sense, because I feel like you're spanning a lot of stuff, and you said you created it yourself. So what do you call it, and what are all the different things that you do?

[00:06:43.077] Myriam Achard: So my official title is Chief New Media Partnership and PR Officer at FI. But I do many, many different things. So I am a curator. I'm the curator of the exhibitions that are at the FI Center, not the Foundation for Contemporary Art. There is somebody else who's doing those exhibitions. But everything that we do at FI, at the intersection between art and technology, that's really my work. Obviously, I'm not alone, there's some other people involved, mainly Phoebe, but it's really, as you said, me traveling to all those places, discovering new work, new artists, create collaborations, so this is one of my responsibilities. I'm also doing public relations and press relations for all the entities, so the foundation, the center, the studio, the upcoming Phi Contemporary. I'm trying to create new media partnerships, so I'm trying to find partners that would be interested to come on board with us, let's say as a sponsor for an exhibition, or being a co-producer or producer on the work with us for the studio. So yeah, I wear many hats. You said it, I'm everywhere. I love my job, I love what I do, and yeah, many hats.

[00:07:57.056] Kent Bye: Yeah, well, maybe you could talk a bit about some of the different immersive exhibitions that you've done. You mentioned the thing with Felix and Paul, but curious to hear about some of the other shows that you may have been a part of hosting there in Montreal.

[00:08:10.679] Myriam Achard: So, you know, the Center has been around for 10 years. We've been presenting XR exhibitions for the last eight years, maybe, nine, eight years, so I'm not going to go through all the exhibitions, but we do two to three exhibitions a year. Sometimes it's one artist or one studio, but most of the time it's more of a group show. I'm really excited about the upcoming exhibition that is opening next week, on March 21st, which is called Chaos and Memories. One work is by Scanlab, who you know, Framerate, that was actually here, premiered here at South by last in 2022. Then it went to Venice and we're going to be showing it in Montreal at the FI Center. And the other part of this exhibition is actually a spotlight on Taiwan. I feel that what's coming out of Taiwan in the last years is really, really impressive. So we are collaborating with Taika on bringing four VR works to Montreal as part of the exhibition. We will bring in the creators, well, not next week, but probably in June, to speak about the ecosystem in Taiwan. So this is upcoming. It's hard for me, you know, to choose one, but we presented Spheres a couple of years ago in a beautiful installation. I still think it was one of the most beautiful set designs we did for an exhibition at the center. The same exhibition with Spheres we did, we brought it to the Rockefeller Center in New York. So we do, we are present in Montreal at the center in our own walls, but we also are doing exhibitions internationally. We also presented the works by Marshmallow Laser Feast, they're very close to the family. So we presented In the Eyes of the Animals, Tree Hugger, their latest one, now I have a blank. We live in an ocean of air, exactly. I really, really love what Marshmallow is doing. That was major for us, having their work. So yeah, I mean, I'm trying always to, the way I select works, you know, if I go into a festival like South By or Sundance or Tribeca, if I do like an experience in VR and I remove the headset and I have this feeling that, okay, I liked it, I know the Montreal audience is gonna go for it,

[00:10:26.435] Kent Bye: And there's also, I guess, their latest piece from Marshmello's Leisure Feast was Evolver, but I'm not sure if that's even come out after that yet.

[00:10:32.561] Myriam Achard: Yeah, Evolver was shown in Geneva at the GIF, the Geneva International Film Festival, but I think that's it for now. I'm sure it's gonna go other places, but I think after New York, it was only Geneva.

[00:10:46.803] Kent Bye: Yeah, because I've been going to, like, the different major festival circuits from, like, Sundance and South by Southwest, Tribeca, Venice, IFA DocLab, and not every one for every year, but trying to, when I go to them, see what those pieces are. And I guess the great tragedy a lot of times is that after you have that exhibition, then maybe it'll go to some of these other festivals or maybe other regional festivals that are out there, but the life of these projects have, unfortunately, a lot of them don't have an opportunity to be seen in a broader context. with the location-based entertainment approach that you've taken with the Fi Center, at least you have an outlet and maybe an economic model for some of these creators to actually get a return on their investment rather than to put a lot of money in stuff and then maybe not have any way to get any money back, which by its nature doesn't really foster a growing ecosystem that makes it viable for people to do this type of work. So it feels like the stuff that you've been doing at the Fi Center has been so crucial of creating the stopgap of a place for these projects to go and live and get shown to audiences, but eventually, to potentially then, at some point, make it out into more of a general mainstream distribution. So I'd love to hear some of your take on that, because distribution's been obviously a big challenge, but you've been doing quite a lot to try to actually make these works more accessible.

[00:12:02.358] Myriam Achard: So, you know, the big difference between what we do at the center and the festival, like where we are now at Salbai, Salbai is even something else. The exhibition is on for three days. If you go to Tribeca, it's ten days. Itfa and Venice, ten days. When we are presenting an exhibition, it's like three to four months. So it gives a lot of visibility to the creators. Thousands of people are coming through our doors. We pay a licensing fee to the artists. That's really important. And we hope by being present that long that there will be like a word of mouth. People will say, oh, did you see that artist at the FI Center in Montreal? And then I'm also like people are calling me a connector. I really love, you know, to introduce people. So that's why I also when you show works by different artists in Montreal and If some curators are coming as part of MUTEC, for instance, I always invite them to come and see what we have on and then very often I will then say, oh well, the curator from MUTEC came, maybe you should speak to him about your work. So that's one thing. The other thing is we were in 2020. At the beginning of 2020, we were on the verge of having three or four different exhibitions outside of Quebec. We were supposed to have an exhibition at the Saatchi in London, in collaboration with Acute Art. We were supposed to have an exhibition that was actually presented in Montreal at the center and a space in Milan called Meet was really interested. So we were supposed to bring everything we had in Montreal and install it at Meet. We were supposed to be present in Tribeca with a piece that was part of the programming of the festival, but then that would have been for a longer time. And then COVID happened. So all of those never happened. And then, well, we're still a bit, we're recovering still. might be something we'll look into it again. Yeah, creating, producing exhibitions for FI in Montreal is, right now, for the Center is the main goal. We also have the Infinite and those large-scale exhibitions, but to create partnerships and collaborations with other venues. I wish there would be other venues like the FI Center, and I say that in a very humble way. I don't mean we are better than anybody else, but I think we are unique. You know, we're collaborating with Meet in Milan, trying to collaborate in Paris with La Gaieté Lyrique or even Le 104, which are spaces that are starting to exhibit also a bit of virtual reality. That's about it.

[00:14:28.182] Kent Bye: There's the Portland Art Museum's Center for Untold Tomorrows which brought the symbiosis to Portland, Oregon and that's where I live and so I had a chance to see a lot of those different characters there and so hopefully there'll be a continued expansion because I do think that actually there's a real hunger and desire to have these. Portland Art Museum is one of the places where during the pandemic when Venice was showing at different places there were a Consortium of different art museums, but in terms of doing the type of curation Yeah, I feel like there's not as many as involved in both not only the the exhibition but also the co-production the cultivation and the funding and so maybe you could talk about because you mentioned stuff about the Phi Center and that eventually you have opportunities to have commissioned opportunities for artists to come in so maybe talk about that component for how that came about for helping to directly commission or help to cultivate pieces from artists that you resonate with.

[00:15:19.337] Myriam Achard: I mean, there's different entries there. I could talk about the residency. We launched a residency program in 2021. I could also talk about the studio, how the studio works, how we choose with whom we like to work. I mean, working with Felix and Paul was obvious because we are investors in Felix and Paul. So that was really like by creating the Infinite, that was an obvious choice to do that. Shall I talk a little bit about the residency, maybe? So we launched in 2021 a residency program where we have three different residencies, one in music, one in contemporary art and one in immersive. The promise with the immersive residencies that we are inviting, it's an open call, so there is a jury. The first year we received 100 applications from all over the world. And the winner, if you like, Saverio and Yolanta, they are Italian artists. They had a piece last year at the Gap Financing Market in Venice called Zero. So what we promised them is that you're going to come and spend two months in Montreal with our studio. January and February, the coldest month. They loved it so much that they moved to Montreal. So the promise is to help them produce a prototype. So we're not promising to produce a piece, we help them produce a prototype so that they are able to go and get some funding. If we really love the work, then we could be interested in producing, but that's not a promise we make. So that was year one. Year two, the residents are still right now in Montreal. They are from Sweden. They were also at the Gap financing market. They had a piece called Crow Castle and they are spending now two months with the team in Montreal to help them, you know, creating a prototype to go after funding. So this is one of the way we work with artists. We do a bit of commission because now we have the studio that is producing. The foundation for contemporary art is more maybe commissioning works, the center a bit less.

[00:17:17.186] Kent Bye: Well you mentioned the contemporary art and I know that when I was at Venice that you had said that you'd already seen a lot of the stuff at the Art Biennale and so I have like a cadence of like ideally I'd be able to go to like Sundance New Frontier which took a hiatus this year, South by Southwest, Tribeca, Venice Film Festival and at the Doc Lab. If I cover and see all the things there I feel like I've got a good beat as to what's happening with immersive storytelling. But it seems like that you're also going to like all these other ones, whether it's like music or RP&LA. Maybe you could talk about some of the other places that you go to to try to search for where the future of immersive entertainment or these other music or other aspects that you may be looking for in keeping a beat of what's happening in this immersive art space.

[00:17:56.680] Myriam Achard: We've been going to the Venice Contemporary Art Biennale for over 15 years. Because we have a Contemporary Art Foundation, it makes sense. I mean, I do the same festivals as you. We see each other in all those festivals, but we feel that we need also to expand, we need to open up to other disciplines. And when Contemporary Art meets technology, It can be really powerful and there is more and more technology. For instance in Venice at the Contemporary Art Biennale, this year there was more technology based work than two years ago, than four years ago, than six years ago. So it's really important to be aware of what's coming. How contemporary artists, how do they feel about technology? So yeah, Venice is one space we go. I was not so long ago, I went to London because we had meetings, I went to see ABBA. And I was blown away, you know, like that's where music meets technology. It's incredible what they did. I don't know if you saw it, but it's it is incredible. At some point, you know, like you're dancing and I was clapping and I was like, oh, my God, I'm clapping at avatars. They were so real that they make you feel that it's a real person in front of you. So yeah, I went to Tokyo, I went to TeamLab because I think it's important to see what TeamLab is doing in the immersive space. So yes, there are really moments in the year where I will always be present, the festival you mentioned, but we're always trying to go to other events to discover other types of works, but always where technology is involved.

[00:19:34.039] Kent Bye: There's a number of different music festivals I'm not sure if you've gone to. I have never been on the frontiers of that music, but is that something that you're looking at at all or not?

[00:19:41.902] Myriam Achard: I have a colleague who is really in charge of programming, because we also do music at the center. We have a music venue where we program, well, not traditional, but concerts. So I have a colleague that's really more involving in that. I've never been to Coachella. When I'm at South By, I never go to the music events.

[00:20:00.857] Kent Bye: There's some of the intersection of technology and music, some more spatialized audio experiments. I forget the name of it, but I don't know if it's Sonar or other places.

[00:20:08.783] Myriam Achard: Oh, I've been to Sonar, actually. I've been to Sonar last summer. I didn't go to Barcelona for that, but I happened to be there. So, yeah, MUTEC is a good example. I think MUTEC, you know, it's been around for 20-something years. It started as an electronic music festival, but now it's really bringing also digital artists. Max Cooper, who gave a talk yesterday here at South By, He was in Montreal last year during MUTEC and his show, I don't know if you know Max Cooper, but it's incredible. I don't want to say he's a DJ because he's a musician. and he's doing large-scale projection, but it's incredible. So, yeah, there are more and more that type of festivals, you're right, that's popping up. MUTEC is not new, but more and more festivals that are popping up where they involve digital creativity, technology, for sure. And if we speak about sound, maybe something I should share with you, We've been exploring sound immersion a lot at FIE lately. We produced a piece last year called Lashing Skies that's like an immersive sound experience. We just launched in the fall of 2022. We dedicated a room at the FI Center, a very small room, but it's an immersive sound room. So people buy a ticket, it's like if they were going to the cinema, but they come to listen to an album. Yeah, we're working with artists that do have albums that are suitable for immersive sound space, and we dedicated one room, as I said, in the center for that. So we are exploring. We love to R&D, you know, we love to test things. Sometimes things don't work, but With sound, we realize that people are really curious about immersive sound, and they come, and it's a big success.

[00:21:56.486] Kent Bye: Yeah, I've been mostly focusing on the film festival circuit that have had these virtual reality pieces, but I know there's a whole other immersive theater scene in New York City, as well as in LA, and there's Meow Wolf that's doing all sorts of immersive installation art, and so are you also trying to check out some of the immersive theater pieces? I know, for example, Noah Nelson of Noah Proscenium is like really covering a lot of those different types of immersive theatrical innovations. I see a lot of crossover with different like VR in terms of like the future of storytelling and you know live-action role-playing types of things but yeah I'm just curious if as you're trying to keep abreast of all these different things if you like take a trip to New York or go to LA and try to catch the latest hot buzz of whatever the latest immersive theater projects are.

[00:22:39.957] Myriam Achard: Definitely. Immersive theatre is really inspiring, I think, for our ecosystem. So, of course, I saw Sleep No More in New York, I saw Sleep No More in Shanghai. I went last year to London for the opening of The Burnt City, the new piece by Punchdrunk. I went to Meowlf, Denver, Meowlf, Santa Fe. So, yes, I think we need to go to that type of places. It opens up also, I mean, I have colleagues like producers, creative directors, they need to see that and this can have an influence on the way we are producing the type of work we are doing. So yes, I mentioned TeamLab, but definitely I should have mentioned Mia Wolf and Punchdrunk. It's really a big inspiration, actually.

[00:23:23.008] Kent Bye: There's a project that was here last year. What was the name of it that was a part of the FI Center?

[00:23:27.055] Myriam Achard: So the piece was Composition, directed by Vincent Morissette. Vincent is a Montreal-based artist that is not here this year, but his works were shown all over the world. And actually this piece was developed as part of a residency at FI. That was before we launched the official program of residency. So we wanted to test. Again, we love to test. So before launching an official residency program, we wanted to see if we were able to bring something to an artist. So we invited Vincent to develop a project. with us, with the studio, in a residency. And it ended up here at South By. I think it was successful, people really loved it. And yeah, I mean, South By is a great vitrine for artists, for work, to network, to meet new people, but also to shed light on their works and find maybe more homes to present them.

[00:24:23.606] Kent Bye: Did they have an exhibition at the FI Center, either before South By or after South By? The composition?

[00:24:29.232] Myriam Achard: Yes, Composition was shown in the summer of 2021, part of a group show. Actually, Composition and... Were you there in Sundance in 2020? So we had a piece in Sundance in 2020 called Breathe by an artist, a Brazilian artist called Diego Galafasi. And Breathe and Composition were developed at the same time in residencies with FAI before we, as I said, officially announced our program of residency. So, yeah, Composition was shown during the summer of 2021 as part of an exhibition at FAI. It was a perfect piece because 2021 we were still in COVID, right? So it was a perfect piece because You know like it's mainly sound and interaction, but you're not too close to other people So it was a great big success at the center

[00:25:20.506] Kent Bye: Yeah. And Breathe was its own prescient piece where it's a magic leap experience where you're visualizing breathing the particles of air from other people. And so it's sort of like, that was like COVID was like starting to get like in the buzz of like, is it happening? And like, so anyway, that, that was also, I don't know if you ever had an exhibition of Breathe, but it sort of have a new context in the pandemic of, it was trying to get at the essence of how we're all interconnected through the air we breathe. But yet when the pandemic happened, I think it took a different tone.

[00:25:50.347] Myriam Achard: Unfortunately, the timing for Breathe was really bad because of COVID, as you just said, and the piece was not shown after Sundance. Some people were interested, but I think the context, because of the pandemic and because, as you said, we're talking about the exchange of air, then yeah. So unfortunately, it didn't have a second live. I'm really sad about it because I really think it was an interesting piece. And the installation we made for it was absolutely beautiful.

[00:26:20.837] Kent Bye: Yeah. Yeah. I really enjoyed it and had a chance to do an interview and have it published. So there's at least that experience that I had in that conversation. But as you move forward now into like 2026 and start to have this unified center with 80,000 square feet, can you talk a bit about like what's going to change for you in terms of that going to give you more capacity to have even more works and yeah. And what's it mean to have these two disparate centers be connected to each other?

[00:26:44.341] Myriam Achard: So it's definitely, we're going to have more space, that's for sure. And we're going to be able to have several exhibitions at the same time. So several offerings, programming, and that's really important. And we really don't want to have to talk about contemporary art on one side and art and technology on the other side. We're going to talk about art. We were talking about contemporary art earlier. There's more and more established contemporary artists that are exploring, working with technology. We want to bring them to FIE, contemporary, that's for sure. We're going to have smaller galleries, bigger galleries, so it's going to be an offering that's evolving on a regular basis. Different artists, as I said, We're really looking forward to open Phi Contemporary because I think it's going to... I say that in a very humble way, but Phi Contemporary will become for Montreal a landmark. People will fly in to Montreal to go and see an exhibition to Phi Contemporary, like I would fly to New York or drive to New York to see an exhibition. So we really want, we feel that it's going to become a landmark. And again, I say that in a very humble way, but I'm convinced.

[00:27:57.767] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I see you've had an opportunity to serve on a lot of juries. So I guess when you're like either judging, there's a lot of different dimensions of an experience. And do you center it on the emotional reaction, the story, or what's the type of stuff that you're either judging for like, what's the best experience of a piece? I mean, it's always kind of weird to like judge stories next to each other, but we just had the Oscars a couple of nights ago. So I guess that's part of the industry of trying to like exalt up like things that people should celebrate in terms of like storytelling. So, Yeah, I guess if you have any reflections on either through your curatorial process or what types of things do you want to see in an immersive experience?

[00:28:33.800] Myriam Achard: I mean, you know when talking about judging, it's true you said I did many juries and I feel that it's really weird what I'm gonna say, but if a work, a piece, a story make me forget about the technology, then for me it's like, check. It's really, really, it means that it works. I think one of the work that I've seen in the last year that has been really many, but one that was come to mind I was able to do that is the pursuit of the repetitive beats. I mean, I danced all the way. I forgot I had a headset on my head. And when that happens, to me, that's like magic. And that's what I hope I'll see more and more in our ecosystem, you know, and being VR, being AR, being mixed reality doesn't really matter. If that works, if that happened, then that's how. Yes, of course, like if I can cry in VR and that also means that the work is powerful. But crying in VR doesn't mean I forget about the VR headset. But if I can forget about it, then I'm all the way for that type of experience, for sure.

[00:29:42.260] Kent Bye: Yeah, that's definitely one of the ones that I put as a high bar in the pursuit of repetitive beats in terms of not only immersion in storytelling but also just the fusion of different genres as you have all these like documentary forms and embodiment and, you know, storytelling and, you know, this this rural imaginal exploration. So yeah, really, really appreciate it. Actually, I think I saw a video of the launch of Coventry and you're there with Casper Sonnen. So, you know, always As always, on the bleeding edge of whatever is new and emerging, I can guarantee you that you'll be there. So always nice to get a sense of what is happening in the landscape. But yeah, I guess as we start to wrap up, I'm curious what you think the ultimate potential of this type of immersive storytelling, immersive art might be, and when it might be able to enable.

[00:30:28.765] Myriam Achard: You know, if I think about the Infinite, the co-production we did with Felix and Paul, where we are bringing the audience in virtual reality on the International Space Station. I mean, in my lifetime, I won't go to space. I know that. Maybe my daughter will, or maybe her children a lot later. But to be able to transport people to a place where they will most likely never go, this is the power of immersive storytelling. When you look at Cartagena Arena, where Iñárritu is putting you in the shoes of migrants that are at the border between, trying to pass the border between Mexico and the States, we'll never go through that because we are privileged. But to be able to somehow get a bit of a sense of what those people are going through because of technology, This is one thing that technology can enable. After doing Carnet Arena, a lot of people are like, OK, but what can I do now? How can I change those things? And this is having a social impact. Technology can help with stories. And that's one thing that comes to mind. And there are many stories that can be told and that can have people, after an experience, like you want to make a change. And technology can enable that.

[00:31:51.130] Kent Bye: Awesome. Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?

[00:31:56.733] Myriam Achard: No, what I would say is that, like, you know, we're wrapping up at South by Year. I'm already looking forward to the next festival, the next works that I will be discovering, let's say, at Tribeca or even next week at CPH Docs. So keep on producing, creating works that are surprising us, moving us. help us also, as I realize, you know, like the world we live in and speak about the environment, about inclusion. But I think our XR community is doing that really well. But I would just want to say keep up the great work. Yeah.

[00:32:29.005] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, thanks so much for joining me and breaking down your journey. And, you know, we run into each other a lot on the festival circuit, and it's really nice to be able to get a bit more of your backstory and your journey into this and just getting a sense of your lay of the land of what's happening in the immersive art ecosystem, but also just all the really amazing work that you're doing there with all the FI Contemporary Center, the FI Center, all the residency programs in the studio. Yeah, it's just a lot of really amazing work that I think is a key part of helping to really take this immersive art into the next level and to provide a home for it. And it's been such a key part for probably keeping a lot of these artists able to keep creating this type of amazing work. So thanks again for all that you do and for joining me to help sort of break it all down. So thanks.

[00:33:12.930] Myriam Achard: Thank you for all that you do, because you give visibility to artists and this is really important. Merci.

[00:33:19.830] Kent Bye: So that was Miriam Achard, who's the Chief New Media Partnership and PR Officer at the FI Center in Montreal, Canada. So I have a number of takeaways about this interview is that first of all, well, the FI Center is really on the bleeding edge of immersive exhibition. And I'd say the leading place in the world that is bringing these different experiences in a consistent location for multiple months, and has been doing it for many, many years. And Like she said, she's one of the investors in Philips and Paul, helping to bring the Infinite and really thinking about location-based exhibitions as well, and trying to figure out both the throughput issues, and I have a conversation that I did about the Infinite that has one of the representatives from the Phi Center that was also talking about more the logistical side of how to do a piece like the Infinite. Also bringing back in your retus gonna either Ina that is currently playing in San Francisco originally showed in Los Angeles But has been traveling around and so they're thinking about in the wake of the pandemic They had like three different location based experiences that were gonna be happening around the world and so that Rolled back some other more expansive location based experiences expensive in the sense that going beyond just what it's happening in Montreal and to take these pieces to different cities around the world. I had a chance to see the Infinite that was actually in Tacoma, Washington and had a chance to just to see the epic nature of what they're able to figure out how to do exhibition. And they had a whole really great immersive art exhibition afterwards. And yeah, just to also hear from Miriam's perspective, like what are the different things that she's looking at? She's going to all the different major immersive festivals that I'm going to. She's also going to other more regional festivals to start to really be on the lookout for the emerging talent from these regional festivals that are not being curated. just yet at these other places, and also TeamLab, the Meow Wolf, the Immersive Theater, pieces like Sleep No More, and going to Los Angeles, and LA, and all these musical festivals. She's going basically around the world all the time and trying to see all the latest and greatest immersive experiences. yeah it's just doing a really amazing job of caching all the different things and bringing them to the FI Center and in 2026 they're going to be expanding their exhibition and kind of having like there's been this bifurcation between the contemporary art scene and the digital art scene and there's this fusion that's currently happening that she's seeing by looking at different evidence of what's happening at say like the Art Biennale but also like the immersive art that's happening there that I had a chance to really check out this past year when I went to Venice in 2022 And yeah, just to see how with the next iteration of the Feist Center in 2026, how there's going to be less of a bifurcation between the contemporary art scene and the digital artist scene, and what's happening with immersive art as well. It's going to be more of a seamlessly integrated fusion of these two separate locations that they currently have. And the trend of them combining together is an indication of where the contemporary art world is headed into having more and more of these immersive art and more of these XR immersive storytelling exhibitions. And yeah, so just really exciting to see what other exhibition opportunities are going to happen there for these artists, because these are at the frontier of going from these ideas that we get to see at these festivals into more of a enterprise bespoke distribution, and then eventually get into more of a mass consumer scale. And so these art museums are at the forefront of showing these Can craft a bespoke location based exhibitions that have PC VR and have an outlet for a lot of these pieces that the consumer market is really centered on For being at scale the standalone but not all these different pieces can be translated into standalone experiences maybe with the pixel streaming and other different technologies that we started to see with what Evolver was doing at Tribeca 2022 with doing more of a high-res experience that was being more streamed in. And so, yeah, having these more cloud-rendered experiences is also an opportunity. We're going to see a bit of a convergence, I think, but to have this whole multi-sensory experiences that are happening at these more installation-based, location-based, site-specific installations, for that higher fidelity, there's always going to be need for that site-specific installations as well. So anyway, lots of really amazing stuff that's happening there at the Fai Center. They're going to be showing some stuff from Taiwan. I have some previous interviews from Venice 2022, talking to the Taiwan Creative Content Agency, as well as the Kaohsiung Festival and The Man Who Couldn't Leave, as well as All That Remains. Some really amazing, immersive storytelling experiences that are coming out of Taiwan. They're going to be featured there. in Montreal. So I'm really at the top of the line in terms of 360-degree immersive storytelling. Actually, the winner of Venice Immersive this year was the man who couldn't leave. And yeah, just a really next level of immersive storytelling there. So that's all I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a list of supported podcasts, and I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage so you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voices of vr thanks for listening

More from this show