Shola Amoo’s Violence is a provocative virtual reality experience that “re-contextualizes the notions of violence by examining it through the lens of state oppression against marginalized groups.” It’s difficult to say too much about my experience of this piece without giving too much away, and so I highly recommend trying to find a way to see this experience before reading too much more or listening to this conversation exploring all aspects of the experience and it’s design.
Violence was originally set to premiere as a part of the Tribeca Virtual Arcade in April, but due to the global pandemic the premiere was delayed until June 24 to July 3rd as a part of the Tribeca showcase at Cannes XR within the Museum of Other Realities. There are a lot of very timely themes around the ethics of violence in protest that have been a big topic of discussion the wake of the range of riots and non-violent and peaceful Black Lives Matters protests that happened in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
Amoo is a filmmaker who directed The Last Tree, and it was from the film festival circuit that he was able to see some of his first VR experiences at Sundance and Encounters with pieces from African creators produced by the Electric South that provided a lot of inspiration for what could done with the medium. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to explore the issues of race, perception, bias, and agency within the more passive and flat medium and film, and so he set out to create a piece that contrasted the sonic refrains of compliance and the futility of protest by Margaret Thatcher and the more revolutionary and liberation rhetoric from Malcolm X.
There’s a lot of really well-considered design intention put into this piece with the use of a lot of symbolic and metaphoric imagery and embodied dance performances, as well as a number of challenging provocations that merit some further discussion and conversations. There’s a lot of really inspired innovations around the immersive power of virtual reality as a medium, and how to set up and debrief an experience through the innovative use of surveys that are conducting a scientific study in collaboration with Royal Holloway.
There’s a lot of provocative polarities explored in this piece, and after debuting it in a virtual reality world of the Museum of Other Realities, then Amoo says that he’d love to be able to screen Violence within a larger context of talks, seminars, discussions with historians, artists, and educators to be able to provide additional context and statistics about the role that violence has to play in tandem with non-violent resistance in order to bring about revolutionary change. It’s hard to encapsulate everything within a singular experience, but Violence provides an experiential context to have further and deeper discussions exploring these issues. I’d highly recommend keeping an eye out for Violence, and to check it out and carry on this conversation.
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