All That Remains is a surreal embodied adventure through liminal moments that is open-ended enough to leave a lot of room for the audience to project a wide range of associative meaning, memories, or emotions onto it. It is the closest that I’ve fest to replication a one-on-one, immersive theatre encounter in 360 video. So it makes sense that director Craig Quintero is synthesizing over a decade’s worth of insights from experimental theatre in Taiwan into this piece. I sat down with Quintero during Venice Immersive in order to get more context on his process of creating All That Remains, how he directs his actors, and the eschewing of any explicit meaning or narrative in favor of creating a sequence of visceral moments.
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[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's looking at the structures and forms of immersive storytelling and the future of spatial computing. You can support me on Patreon at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. So continuing on my series of Venice Immersive 2022, today's episode is with Craig Quintero on a piece called All That Remains. So this is a 360 video that was really quite provocative. You don't quite know what to expect and it's difficult to know exactly what a piece like this means and actually in talking to the creator, Craig Quintero, he his whole goal was to try to recreate this one-on-one encounter that he's been doing in the context of Taiwanese immersive theater scene and in that sense he's trying to pervert your expectations and constantly kind of pull out the rug from underneath you and Working with the actors to give them very specific directions for how they're trying to cultivate this Confluence of different emotions and feelings and so it's a really quite provocative piece And it was one of my favorites and actually just covering a lot of the scene of what was happening there with the 360 video Within Taiwan and just how that is being supported by their culture I'll have a few other interviews kind of digging into that but this conversation with Craig I think is really interesting just to hear his process of working with these actors and to Construct these moments that are kind of recreating this one-on-one type of encounter within the context of 360 video So that's what we're coming on today's episode of the voices of VR podcast So this interview with Craig happened on Friday, September 2nd 2022 at the Venice immersive in Venice, Italy So with that let's go ahead and dive right in So my name is Craig Quintero.
[00:01:53.892] Craig Quintero: I'm the artistic director of Riverbed theater we're a Taipei based theater company and we've been together for 24 years and this is our first virtual reality project all that remains and For this piece, it's slightly different. And so we've been doing these immersive performances for an audience of one for the past 11 years. And so with those, we'd have sometimes up to 10 performers or 12 performers performing for one audience member at a time. Some of these were in museums. Some of these were in hotels, in alleys. And so it's really these intimate encounters, like these moments of, I'm not, as an actor, standing on a stage performing into the darkness to the abstract audience. You're performing for the person directly in front of you. And so a lot of it was like sort of our theater company had already been together for about 11 years when we started or 12 years when we started doing this and like our shows had grown in scale and bigger and bigger. And so the distance between us and our audience also got greater. And so it's really this project about returning to this fundamental, like, how do we connect? Like, in this age of separation and the living theater, this New York-based company had said, we only look each other in the eyes when there's an emergency. That quote has resonated and stuck with me for a long time. And it's thinking about right now, like, that we can't avert our eyes, that we do need to look and we do need to see, we do need to connect. And so we were doing these performances for an audience of one. We did about 10 different shows. And obviously, sort of economically, it's difficult to sustain, because if you perform 60 times, only 60 people get to see it, right? And so for the performers, it's an amazing encounter. For the audience, it's an amazing encounter, but not financially sustainable. And so we started thinking about making the shift to virtual reality. And so this is the first experiment with that.
[00:03:34.576] Kent Bye: OK, yeah, I can definitely tell that there is a deep tradition of theater practices. And yeah, we'll get into the experience. I'd love to unpack it more. But before we do that, I'd love to get a bit more context as to your background and your journey into VR.
[00:03:47.806] Craig Quintero: Yeah, so I'm an American. I first went to Taiwan in 1992 to study Chinese opera as a Rotary Scholar. And that one year studying Chinese opera, I met a bunch of folks in the experimental theater community. And it's a really vibrant community, and so one year led to two years, which led to the past 30 years of my life doing work and research in Taiwan. And so with our theater company, a lot of it is image-based theater, and so very little language. The whole idea is like this idea we talked before about our work and described it in terms of like moving pictures or living sculptures. And so it was cinematic, well, being theater, right? And so now we're sort of doing cinema or VR that's kind of theatrical. And so I think we've been shifting back and forth between, you know, film, theater, fine art, installations, you know, for the past 24 years as a company. And for us, then, this journey to VR was really about, you know, we've embraced, like I mentioned, like sculpture, installations, all these things. And it's like, well, you know, VR with this medium, what does it provide, right? And so in a way, with a one-to-one performance, we could deal with physical contact. We could deal with smell and taste and touch and all of these elements. And so we lose that as we're transitioning to VR. But I think that we gain something that's like the level of closeness that I mean, in our piece, like all the remains, the actors. seem almost maybe as present or more present or a different type of presence than what we encounter in everyday life. Because you're like with the oculus on your head, I mean, they're so close. And when they're looking, you feel, I mean, you feel like they're there. And there's like a moment where the performer holds up a key and the audience can, and a lot of people reach up to take it. People have seen a lot of VR, so they know that this isn't that type of encounter, but still something is happening, right? And so for us, it's like it's exploration. So whether it's theater or VR, I think it's really less important about the medium itself, but how do we create these encounters? How do we have something happen? Right? And so it's less about telling a story, or it's less about, this is our moral, this is this idea, take away these thoughts, but creating this reflective surface where, and through seeing the work, the audience can see themselves.
[00:06:02.072] Kent Bye: Yeah, and you had mentioned that you're also teaching at Iowa, and so it sounds like, you know, you originally went to Taiwan to study Chinese opera, but, so there's a scholarly element, so what are you teaching in Iowa, and how does that connect to what you're doing in the theater practice?
[00:06:16.536] Craig Quintero: Yeah, so I teach at Grinnell College in Iowa, and so I teach primarily acting and directing. Within the practice, I've also incorporated a lot of devised work. And so one assignment for my advanced performance class is students also do a performance for an audience of one. And so it's encouraging them also to rethink, like, well, what is theater? What is performance? That you look at the visual arts and the experimentation that have happened over the last hundred years. I mean, like, you know, a hundred years ago, people were painting landscapes and fruits, like still lifes. And you look at the explosion in experimental and contemporary art. And in theater, there's still the role of text, the role of character, the role of plot, the same sort of Greek dramatic structure that we've been following for 2,000 years, we're still engaged with. And so I'm really encouraging the students in the classroom to rethink what is the potential of performance. And I think that for this experiment, for us, it's like taking performance and putting it in VR. and having this other medium for this encounter.
[00:07:14.580] Kent Bye: So you said you've been doing one-on-one theater productions for 11 years and so that I guess that takes us back to like 2011. I remember Sleep No More opening in New York City in 2011 which I saw it in October 2011 which is when Occupy Wall Street was happening and so it opened earlier in that spring but there's a lot of people in immersive theater space that are moving around, and then you would have like a one-on-one encounter that they had built into that as a piece. And then Then She Fell by Third Rail Projects had a lot of the one-on-one encounters that was really designed for 15 people and, I don't know, 10 or 12 actors that were really orchestrated to create an entire experience to do one-on-one interactions, but have each of the audience members go through a different path through the spatial context, so that they could each maybe go through the similar scenes, but in a different order, so that they could each have each of these different one-on-one interactions. And so, with the pure one-on-one, though, you're really constrained to just doing something for that one person. So, had you been aware of these other ones, or have you seen some of these other pieces that have been experimenting with the immersive theater scene and one-on-one interactions?
[00:08:22.707] Craig Quintero: Yes, the first time I experienced this, I did my undergraduate work at Tufts University outside of Boston, like in Medford, and there was an artist there named Marilyn Arsum. And so when I was an undergraduate many moons ago, I saw some of her work at Mobius, and then she came and talked to my class. about a performance she did for an audience of one called Red in Woods and it was this beautiful piece where they have this red yarn leading into the woods and you follow the yarn and you're sort of discovering this and so it's I think maybe five or six performers in this almost fairy tale journey into the forest and she staged it on the first day of the year that it was snowing and she staged it right around sunset and so there's like white on the ground and the sunset casting like this reddish glow And so this magical world. And so that story that she told me as an undergraduate stuck with me. Then, you know, in 2011, as our company was, as I mentioned, was expanding and getting bigger and sort of really feeling like we were losing this connection with the audience, like we were performing into darkness. And as you're an actor and you're performing into darkness, I mean, then it becomes like my technical skills and my emoting and my projecting, or it becomes internal, but you're lacking, you're performing into the void. And it seemed that we were losing something. And so it became important to try to go back. And at that moment, I wasn't consciously, I'm going to do something like Marilyn. But I mean, that seed was planted, right? And so I think that in terms of talking to students, you know, this idea of like feed your head, like the more creative stuff you put in your head, the more things can like grow, right? And so, you know, hopefully like in the classes I'm teaching as well, they also do, you know, Stanislavski-based, method-based, like sort of I'm going to do my character analysis and what's my motivation. But also, I mean, there's an infinite number of possibilities. And so I think that with immersive theater or with VR, I mean, it's so exciting because, I mean, we're discovering the field or rewriting the field like every day. And so you look at here, like in Venice, you know, there's like 40 projects and everyone has like a slightly different take on it. And I think that's immensely exciting. If you look at the average theater scene, like in, you know, a city, like how many are like doing play plays, like the way that it's been done since, you know, theater started. And so I think this idea of like rewriting the book is really sort of exciting. I did see Sleep No More but like the first time about four or five years ago so I had heard about maybe six or seven years ago and I didn't eventually and but I mean beautiful and like those moments of just sort of like the groups converging and so is the collective audience seeing something and then those moments of like I've never had the one-on-one performance but I've heard about them but just sort of like yeah the range of that encounter something that's really about the one-on-one performances or performances for an audience of one that we've been doing, we've only let one audience member seated at a time. Because if you have even two people, like right now I'm looking at you directly in the eyes, and if there's a second person, then I'd also connect with them. And then I'd come back to you. And then I'd look away from you and look at them. And there we're sort of breaking this connection with you. And so when we'd have sometimes 10 performers, all 10 would be looking at you. And so in this moment, it's kind of overwhelming. Because in life, we look away. And in these projects, we don't. And so even in the VR project, the first scene where the two men pass the camera, and then they turn, and they're constantly, so even as you're watching the woman enter, these two men are also looking, I mean, you're still, you're the center, right? You're in it.
[00:11:47.186] Kent Bye: Have you had a chance to see Then She Fell?
[00:11:49.398] Craig Quintero: I did not, yeah.
[00:11:50.378] Kent Bye: Okay, so that was for me. I had one brief one-on-one encounter from Sleep No More, but then she felt like it was 70% or so was scenes that were one-on-one encounters, but a series of them, like with lots of different types of actors and moments. And there were some group scenes because I don't think they had the 15 actors for the 15 audience. But for me there was something about the intimacy and the types of interactions that I had like I just remember being in a room with like filing cabinets in the back and like the person on the other side doing some acrobatic stuff and just real intense moments that they're reacting to you and And actually some of the third world projects that did that ended up working on Wolves on the Wall. So there's a certain amount of the types of one-on-one interactions that Fable Studio put into Lucy as the AI character that was informed by the embodied interactions and the wisdom that comes from immersive theater actors that are dealing with a range of different types of reactions that they have for keeping people engaged and how to use body language as a communication tool. And so It feels like this experience of All That Remains is kind of the first experience that started to replicate some of those feelings that I had from that Vinci fail one-on-one encounters with that type of intimacy. So I feel like that was part of the Part of the thing that really stood out for me for why it was so profound, because I haven't seen a lot of other people that have really tried to create that energy of that encounter. And so because you've been doing this with theater, what were some of the lessons that you were trying to bring into either directing the actors, or if the actors had already had a lot of experience there, or how you're able to really cultivate that vibe and that feeling of having an encounter with someone who's not really there?
[00:13:31.995] Craig Quintero: It's a great question and I think that you mentioned that so when we're doing it for a live audience member and so as soon as the door opens and you see this person and they see you and your eyes connect as a performer we can tell I mean are they really excited and you need like okay calm down it's okay or are they looking on the floor and you're like okay now it's okay to look up and how do you sort of adjust to that audience member and so even though the piece is really tightly choreographed and everything's sort of set, in those initial moments, there's this moment of adjustment, of helping the audience prepare to enter the work. And that's obviously something that we don't have in VR, right? Because her blocking is recorded, right? It is that iteration. And so we don't have the ability to like, it's okay, like, look, calm down, or to like, look up, look, I'm here, it's okay to see me. And so, in terms of the blocking, we're really trying to be specific about helping the audience know where to look. And so, like, people in a lot of VR experiences, you see them constantly, like, looking around, like, well, should I look over my shoulder, should I look here? And really helping the audience know when to turn, where to turn, where to focus. And so, for example, in the first scene, like, where the two people pass and they pass the camera, And so they're looking at you, but then we use sound to sort of indicate that another character is entering. And then if you look back at the other two people, they're either looking at you or looking at her. And so there's never like a question mark of like, oh, well, where, where's the focus. For the second scene constructing sort of like we had the platform that was sort of able to rotate. And again, we're sort of creating a panning shot, which is something that initially for that scene, we were trying to, initially it was like, well, the lights would go on and then we use lighting to have the audience will look here and then look here and look here. But I mean, the lighting is so bright, you could see the whole room in the first second, right? And so it was like, well, you know, it didn't work, right? Because the audience would look and they'd be ahead of the performance. And so we constructed this sort of like this shifting image to create a panning effect in VR, which I hadn't seen before. And I was like, well, will it work? And so again, it's like, well, how does the audience know where to look? How do we control the pace of what they're seeing? And so it's really creating Like in Robert Wilson's early, the American director's early work about like, you know, how do you like slowing down the pace of the movements so the audience's like heartbeat can slow down? Our minds are like racing. There's so much information. I'm coming from a meeting. I just ran over here to see this piece and I'm going to see the next video in like 10 minutes. So how do we like slow things down so we can see them and experience them? And so a lot of it was trying to figure out, well, how do we help the audience have that encounter and let it, let something happen. And then last thing you sort of initially were talking about the performers and I sort of jumped a little bit from there, but like with the actors, it was a lot about, so if you look the whole time directly in the audience's eye, it becomes uncomfortable. And in a way that's like, you know, if someone's you're talking to someone, they just keep staring you in the eye. You're like, okay. And so, I mean, you look away, and so there's moments where, you know, as she's entering, she's not looking at you directly, her eyes are averted, so you can see her enter. So you can see the full her. And then when she raises her eyes and looks at you, then you connect with her. And then she looks down when her hands raise. And so there's a really tight choreography of when you're seeing her eyes, or you're seeing into her eyes, and when you can see the fullness of her person. And so it's really tight choreography because there are two different shots, right? There's two different compositions. And so with the actors, a lot of it was about, you know, like, OK, slowly down. And then on a 10 count, as your hand comes up, and now turn back to the audience. So they can see here first. They can read the text. And now after they've read the text, you can look at them. Did you read that? And in your eyes, you're asking this question. Oh, and then you look down and you're like, oh, now I have another hand. Did you see that? And so it's all really tightly about helping the audience see the work. And then for the final image, with the actress, I gave her probably the most difficult director's note. So in your final images, you want to have the depth of loss, that this world that you've had before is leaving, but also the glow of infinite possibility and this glimmer of hope.
[00:17:48.071] Kent Bye: And the sense of memory this and so it's like these two sort of maybe polar opposite things like simultaneously happening because you mean this is the direction you gave like so think about these images and Try to have the contrast in your mind and then use that as your performance
[00:18:03.095] Craig Quintero: And so in your eyes have like immense loss and like the glimmer of possibility. And so I think as actors, oftentimes you're like, okay, well this scene you're angry or this scene you're sad or this scene you're, and you have like these, one thing is happening. But I mean, in our lives, always there's multiple things happening. that we're in love with someone, but we also, there's this thing and we have question marks and we have, I mean, there's, there's all these things happening. And so for a performer in her eyes, when she like looks down and then she looks back up at the camera, I don't want there to be one answer. I want there to be infinite answers. And hopefully each audience member, as she looks up and she sees them in the eyes, that each of them will have a different takeaway.
[00:18:50.292] Kent Bye: Yeah, I guess one of the qualities of the experience that I get from watching All That Remains is that there's this liminal quality or it kind of transcends my expectations because it's something that goes beyond anything else that I've really experienced before. So you're kind of in this space of awe and wonder and confusion but liminality, these kind of in-between spaces. but also not knowing quite what to expect, or even quite what it means. So it's a little bit like a spatial poem in some sense, where you're giving directions, you're very specific to what the actors are doing, but it's been translated into these embodied interactions that then become less clear as to what's happening. So at the end of it you're creating this vibe and experience and so I'm wondering just to hear a little bit more about your process of like how you think about those are these like liminal spaces or like these the abstractions of not knowing and then Leaving it open enough for the audience to project onto it and make their own meaning So I'd love to hear a little bit more about how you think about what you're doing with these pieces like this Yeah, I'd say
[00:19:50.991] Craig Quintero: I like to use this idea of like so the audience enters and they're standing on a carpet and then our role as a director is to like yank the carpet out from under them, and so they're sort of stumbling, like, oh shit, like, what was that? And then they're sort of like, get their footing back again, and before they completely get it back, you yank it again, and so they stumble again, and then you yank and they stumble, and you yank and they stumble, and so by the end, they're sort of floating in the air, right? And so I think that yanking is sort of removing our normal Logical process our normal way of will this a means a or this has a meaning or wanting it to have a concrete Meaning right and I think once we can let go of that interpretation of like well What does it mean and just experience the encounter then something different can happen? Because I think our minds are structured in a way that we want things to mean something We want to be able to explain why the neighbor did the horrible thing when you hear the reporters like that Yeah, well, you know, it's I think it was when he's a kid that's happening. So we want to be able to like put it in a box that we know and understand. And I think as an artist, how can we help remove the box? How can we help just sort of it's happening? Right? And so I think that when we talk about theater, and we talk about realism, and it's like, okay, well this is a realistic play, and what we mean is that they're sort of imitating reality. But over the course of a realistic play, like in two hours someone will get married, they'll fall in love, they'll have a kid, someone will get cancer, you know, so in two hours a whole life story is resolved. That's not reality, right? And so hopefully, like, with the text on the hands, like, this is not a performance. Like, everything that you're watching is happening in real time. They're not acting. They're doing these actions. And so I think it's removing story. It's removing the need to have it have a single meaning. It's removing the idea of playing character. It's just things are happening, like life, right? And so I think that if we try to, like, I mean, life doesn't have a story. We sort of give it a story. And then I met the love of my life and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But I mean, how, why? Or the kid that gets cancer or like a tsunami or a car accident or, I mean, it's all these things are happening. And so I think in our work, it's really trying to create a space where the audience can hopefully let go of sort of the way that we're sort of structured or we restructured ourselves to encounter the world and experience something or experience it differently. So in that 12 minutes, something else can happen.
[00:22:27.188] Kent Bye: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense and I was able to experience that within your piece so you know that letting go of what to expect or what's gonna happen and being in this kind of like altered state of consciousness in some way because it's like I don't know where this what's happening what this is unlike anything I've ever seen you know where where is this going what's happening all these questions that like trying to you know trying to fit the pattern but it is in some ways a deconstruction of traditional theater and storytelling and really focusing on those embodied interactions and theatrical performance and you know as you were describing it I was you know thinking about is your background and studying this stuff as an academic and teaching it that there's the concepts of genre and how things fit into genre and genre is all about creating a set of expectations and so I'm wondering if you if you identify with any genre or if you're trying to transcend even the genres
[00:23:19.687] Craig Quintero: Yeah, I don't, yeah, it's a great, another, all your questions are great. Like, I don't identify with a genre. I mean, I think that, you know, people that have been really influential, like I would say are, like Marilyn Arsene, the performance artist in Boston, who I saw, like the first time I saw performance art was this work that she did, and where it's like these series of images, and I remember I was supposed to write a review of it, and I was like, but there's no plot, there's no, all the things that I was taught to look for in this piece weren't there. And I remember going up to her afterwards, I was like, I'm an 18-year-old reporter writing my first article. And the images were beautiful, like these stunning images, but what does it mean? And so we did this back and forth. And in the end, I told her, and we did this like, well, what does it mean? I don't know. What does it mean? Blah, blah, blah. You know. And then in the end, I told a story about going to the hospital and seeing my grandfather had a stroke and like seeing him there. And so obviously her performance wasn't about my grandfather and him having a stroke and sort of this situation. But it brought me there, right? And so thinking about this performance as vehicle, so it's not a performance about Marilyn and what a great actor, what a great set, or her and her character. Like I said before, it's like this mirror in which we see ourselves. And it was at that moment that I really sort of started to think about Yeah, I don't have something great to say. But if I can create a moment or a space where people can have these moments to see yourself, to know thyself, you know, and so I think Marilyn gave that to me when I was 18 years old. And I'd say that the rest of our work has been trying to do that.
[00:25:09.406] Kent Bye: Wow. Yeah, that's a, that's quite a introduction into your first article. So as you were talking to her, do you mean that you had, through the conversation you had it or through watching the art you had that? I was a little confused as to what you were saying there.
[00:25:28.129] Craig Quintero: I'd say like in watching the art, I sort of had this encounter where, you know, these, these, these memories or these experiences. And, you know, at that point I hadn't really talked about my processing of my grandfather. You know, being in the hospital, I hadn't talked to my friends about it and I hadn't talked to my parents about it. It's something that's sort of been in me. And then suddenly through her performance, I was addressing it. And, you know, and so it's like, how do we help? I think so much of our life is built around, like, don't stop and think. It's like constant input. And so we don't really have to process our life. We sort of just, like, oh, we can talk about the book or the film or the movie or the work or relationship or how was your day, or what did you eat, how was the weather? I mean, like, we talk about all this stuff so we don't actually have to sit and process the things which are hard. And so I think that art isn't like, now you must suffer, like dig up all your traumas. But it's like, how do we step back and have moments of reflection? And so sometimes like if you're looking at a Rothko painting, like I went to the Rothko Chapel outside of Houston. And so it's like these 12 or 13 beautiful like purplish dark canvases and you look at them and you lose yourself. And so I think this idea of losing yourself, and it's not so you lose yourself and you end up lost, but it's like, so you lose yourself so you can find yourself, right? And I think that those are two things that are sort of tied together, right? Yeah, so in terms of the work, it was this way to sort of see myself in a different light.
[00:27:05.755] Kent Bye: Yeah, as I've seen a lot of different VR pieces, and at Venice in 2019, there was a piece by Huangshan Chen called Bodyless, and then followed up by another piece called Samsara, where There was a lot of aspects of almost like a dream logic. You're flying through and you're seeing all these symbols and some of them are referencing cultural symbols that are more the universal archetypes from a specific culture that would understand what they mean. And then you have personal symbols that as I watch it, then I had to like sit down with the creator and be like, okay, what does this mean? What does this mean? And you just sort of walk through and And there's sometimes, as a creator, very deliberate use of these personal symbols. And so I feel like, in some ways, the challenge of the medium of VR is that you are starting to speak in more of a symbolic logic or a dream logic that sometimes people have a fluency of what the symbols mean, or sometimes they just have associative links of what things mean. And so it feels like juxtaposing these different symbols and then kind of letting whatever associative links come up in the audience. And so it feels like, in some ways, this use and leaning into the dream logic, but having some trajectory for what you're trying to do, but maybe not knowing how it's going to be received because it's in this liminal space of not knowing how those symbols are going to be interpreted.
[00:28:17.931] Craig Quintero: Yeah, yeah, I mean, because, yeah, definitely. And I think that in terms of structuring the piece, I don't start off with knowing what's going to happen, right? And so I knew that I wanted to have, I think the first thing I knew, I wanted to have the room come together. I knew late in the process that I wanted like there to be the turntable and sort of to be able to, and then I knew I wanted to build this sort of green screen room. But I didn't know what was going to happen there. And so it was in a way, it's almost like doing like a site specific performance, but the site is our set. Then we're responding to the set. So I have these ideas for environments and then I inhabit them with people and then they do stuff, right? And so like the moment where the performer approaches and then her clothing gets removed, And it's like, okay, and so we play this game with this exercise called, And Then. Okay, so she walks forward, and then she looks at the audience. And initially, like, I wanted to maybe have signs that she held up. And I was like, well, but then where do they come from? And where do they go? It's like, oh, well, what if it's written on her hand? And then like, okay, and then if this gets pulled away, Then what happens? Oh, what about a wound? And so some of these things are like images we've explored before. And then it's like, if there's a wound, well, what could she remove? And so we removed like a knife, we removed like pills, removed like a note that she gave the audience, we removed... What else? Anyway, there's like seven or eight different things, you know, it's like... And I guess if it was big enough, we wouldn't have to remove a rabbit. I mean, whatever. But it's like there's, again, infinite possibilities. But then when we got to the key, then it was like, oh, huh. And then, OK, well, then what happens? Oh, well, then, OK, that is an open or close something. And then in the room, there's all the keys there. And so try not to use, like, it's symbolic of something. I mean, it is what it is. but it can sort of lead to the next thing. And so it's like this unfolding. And I think that's, for me, because I don't have to make it make sense, that there's sort of limitless possibilities. And so if it was like, oh, well, she's the mother, and this is a story about her childhood and whatever, then it has to fit within that logical structure. And by removing that, then it's sort of, in the end, you still have to sort of make it make sense just because the threads have to sort of weave together in a way. But I don't ever have to say, well, that doesn't make sense, because she's not a character, and I don't have to fit within that narrative. And so in a way, it's really liberating to just let things happen, and then maybe, if you ask me if we talk a year from now, I'll be like, oh, now I know what it means, or now I know what it means for me. And right now, I haven't actually sat down and tried to give the piece a meaning.
[00:31:07.847] Kent Bye: When you were talking about these different potential scenarios with what she pulling out of the wound and all these different objects, is this something that you're actually shooting on set? Or is this something that you've done in the writing process and you've decided before you get there that it's going to be the key?
[00:31:20.820] Craig Quintero: It's through rehearsal. And so our performers are amazing. So one like, you know, like Amber, Ollie, Carl, Chris, Lynn, I mean, they're all just like amazing people. And like, And so in rehearsal, we're like, OK, so now, and then, you know, so I'll ask them, and then we'll just like, so, oh, well, you pull to try something else, or maybe even switch actors, or then we'll sort of run through 10 times, and then maybe a week later, like, eh, I don't know if the poem, we've already had the text, if the text's already on the hand, do we want more text? Should it be a pill? And if it's pill, where does that lead us? And so it's a lot of experimentation with the performers, like seeing it in real time. And with that, I mean, I think they're amazing performers, but I think equally important, they're amazing people. Because when you look at Amber's eyes, when she approaches you in that final scene, I mean, she's like opening her heart, right? And so when her eyes get like a little wet, like when she's like in the first scene, I mean, she's not playing a role. It's Amber, like psychophysically. I mean, she's crying or she's not to cry. I don't want her to cry because I will feel bad for her. But something is happening where her eyes internally enough that they get wet. And so as a performer, because it's not hiding behind a character, it's Amber and Ollie and Carl and Chris and Lynn. It's these people doing these actions. And so I think as a performer, there's an immense generosity of spirit. And I think that's sort of a core thing. And that sort of ties into the rehearsal process because, I mean, they're helping generate the script, you know, with me, right? So there's a bunch of question marks and we're filling in the blanks together.
[00:32:57.760] Kent Bye: And so you're doing these rehearsals, are you shooting individual scenes or do you get the full arc of the whole thing and then shoot it in 360 video?
[00:33:06.671] Craig Quintero: So we, in the rehearsal process, we went through, this was all without cameras. And so we're like rehearsing and like, I'm, I've now seen other directors do the same thing where you're sort of cupping your hands over your eyes to create like what the audience is seeing and so like now if I turn a little bit so I have like the variation of like you know am I looking left or right what is the audience seeing and so we do that in like sort of like more like a theater rehearsal so like we come in we're gonna rehearse the first scene and then maybe after we rehearse that a number of times we'll go switch to the second scene and then we start putting and sometimes for other performances like the first scene becomes the last scene and the last scene becomes I mean it's like once it starts happening, you start to maybe rethink the structure. And again, being open to that. For some of our early shows with Riverbed Theater, on a Thursday night we do our press conference, and I'm like, well, I don't know if that worked. And so the next day, we've cut 10 minutes of the show and added a new scene, and the actors are like, ah! But I think in our rehearsal process, because so much of it is we're creating work together, I think they're prepared for that. They understand that You know, it's a living process and things change. And so I think that they're willing to embrace that. Obviously, as we're getting closer to like for this VR project, as we're getting closer to the actual filming, things start to get really, really focused and really like you look down here and then you look at your hand and then your head rises. Right. And so it becomes sort of instead of like with psychological motivation, like I'm doing this, it's like you let the body work on your mind or your spirit. And so it's like working from the outside in, in a way.
[00:34:41.046] Kent Bye: Yeah, you mentioned that it's all a process and I've been really getting in more and more into Alfred North Whitehead's process philosophy and I know Chinese philosophy has like a process relational orientation where it's all relational and as an American you're going over to Taiwan and there's the different culture and Mandarin Chinese language and Chinese philosophy to certain degrees and so I'm wondering if you have any reflections of you know as you're coming in and out of these different contexts and seeing those different perspectives what you see in terms of what's happening in Taiwan and the more because it seems to be really interesting stuff that's happening there both in the 360 video and VR scene but also the kind of insights from the type of work that's coming out of that culture that seems to be a little bit more considerations of these relational or contextual dimensions that feel unique relative to what's happening in the rest of the VR scene.
[00:35:33.747] Craig Quintero: I think Taiwan's like a really and when I first went there you know as I mentioned before I was going there for one year to study Chinese opera and then like one year led to 30 years and I think what's really exciting is that there's and I was watching and when I first went there there I'd seen like this experimental they call it like a little theater like Xiao Ju Chang and so there's like seeing these little experimental theater performances and like actors kept saying like you're like who am I where am I going And then I saw it in the first round, I was like, huh? And then I see another show the next week, and I'm like, who am I? And the same question, like, well, who am I? And obviously, within, and it sort of sounded like there's bad existentialism, or existentialism 101. But within the context of Taiwan, where the Japanese colony, and then with the nationalist government sort of colonizing Taiwan again, and you couldn't speak Taiwanese, and all these restrictions until the end of martial law in 1987. So there's this huge, well, who are we? And even here in Venice, are we Taipei or are we Taiwan? I don't want to get into those large political questions, but fundamentally, if your identity has been suppressed or marginalized or restricted, these questions of who you are, And so if you look at the man who couldn't leave, seeing Chen's beautiful work, dealing with the white terror. And so these lives that were disrupted, these people's stories who were trying to maintain their Taiwanese identity within a restrictive government. And so there's like these ripples of digging into oneself. And so the level of like self-reflection, this level of trying to find or to create one's identity is really present in a lot of the work. Like so in Taiwan I did some research about like Taiwanese temple festivals and so like there are these pilgrimages and so you're walking through you know like these rural areas and so a lot of people from Taipei I mean it's like you know big cities like New York or Chicago or whatever I mean it's like a big city with like museums and you start going these rural areas where they speak the Taiwanese like a different language and Mandarin, and so a lot of the people from Taipei wouldn't speak Taiwanese, and so you're getting into the roots of the country. And so some theater companies started to incorporate that into their actor training, and so professors started bringing students in, and so there's this theater company, Yu Theater, started this plan of tracing back where they're trying to refine Taiwanese culture. And so I think that there's this searching quality, there's this quest, there's this trying to reveal or create or construct. And so there's a dynamic quality that I think runs through a lot of work in Taiwan.
[00:38:08.912] Kent Bye: Yeah, and as I've looked at different narrative theories and structures, Joseph Campbell's hero's journey comes up quite a lot. And one thing I noticed is that there's a lot of how that's about an individual character that's going out and trying to face these different ordeals and overcome certain things. But it's a lot of action that is energy being put out forth through a specific character. And I feel like that's more of a yang, you know, in Chinese philosophy, a yang expression of energy going outward. And I feel like there's a complementary yin or potentially heroine's archetypal journey. I call it more the yin archetypal journey, which is much more about the disillusionment of the ego and see how you as an individual are connected to the larger whole. That seems to be a part of some of the different stories that may be told in Buddhism or different aspects of Chinese culture. And so as you're studying Chinese opera and studying and teaching, theater and narrative and structure like have you noticed like a differentiation for a different type of narrative structures that happen within Taiwanese or Chinese culture that or maybe different than say focused on the individual going out and being the hero and more about maybe as You as an individual how you fit into more of a relational context
[00:39:22.065] Craig Quintero: Yeah, I mean, I think that probably all those things exist and I think that what's sort of really exciting about Taiwan is that there's like Multiple I mean obviously everywhere. I mean multiple truths multiple ways of looking at that and so I think that there are some narratives which are like I mean, there are still the heroes doing this, but I think that there is that, like you're saying, more of the internal self-reflection. I think that there's a stronger presence of that, and I don't know if it's tied in with education, where there is sort of less about... older generations less about an assertion of individual creativity or individual personality and sort of following structure and repetition. And so I think that even if you look at Taiwan in the past, like when I went out there 30 years ago, and now, I mean, I'd say the students have radically changed, like the level of their creative work, putting stuff out there, their self-confidence, their ability to just sort of not be afraid of stepping into the unknown. And I'd say there's been a huge shift with that, sort of slight variation, I'm sort of not directly answering your question, but I'd say that this creativity, this search, this inner, inward looking, but now we're starting to see it manifest itself, and if you look at the Taiwanese contemporary art scene, the Taiwanese film scene, the Taiwanese VR scene, the Taiwanese, I mean, work there that's happening, it holds its own, and I think that in Taiwan, with the VR and their presence here at Venice, I mean it's pretty amazing like a country of like 27 million having three works as part of the Venice Film Festival here, you know kind of remarkable and like I think two or three years ago had like six projects as part of that, you know, and it's just like Taiwan's voice is being heard.
[00:41:04.750] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I'm curious to hear a little bit about the reactions that you're getting here in Venice. I know last night I was at one of the opening night parties and I had mentioned that All That Remains and The Man Who Could Not Leave were two of the pieces that are both from Taiwan that I felt like were real standout pieces in terms of what's happening with the medium and pushing the medium forward. I heard from some people that there was a bit of a buzz for people, you know, talking about these pieces and so I'm curious to hear a little bit about what their reaction's been for as people go through this experience and as they come out of it, what they're able to, what you're able to see for what their reactions are.
[00:41:35.603] Craig Quintero: It's great, and I think that's something that's really interesting with VR, because, I mean, you're definitely seeing the audience respond in real time, and so, like, in the first sequence, some people, like, they start backing up and backing up, you know, as if they could escape, and by the end, they're, you know, up against the curtain, and if they could still keep backing up, they'd still be, you know, and again, you don't get any further from the character, because it's, that relationship is maintained, but that sense of, it's too close or too much, I think some people come out and just sort of, they're like, wow is sort of or just I think it takes time to sort of process and come back. I think what's difficult here is because people have such a tight schedule and they're running to see the next show or also there's a lot of people around you. It's hard to sort of decompress but I mean just seems there's you know something is happening. I think we've already just talked to like a festival next March and so we just were invited and so that's sort of a really exciting that we already have like next stage and this is the first film in a part of a trilogy and so we've already shot the second film and we're gonna enter post-production and so it's exciting I think that there's a lot of question marks about where this goes and to be honest I was kind of nervous like you know Like, how will people respond? Like, will people be willing to, like, open their hearts and experience this? Or will they just like, well, what does this mean? Or, I don't get it. And I think that that, like, I don't get it. I think that in a way it becomes, you know, it's a really easy, it's one sentence that sort of, you can cop out of everything, right? And so hopefully, I mean, I'd say like 95% of the people seem to be really engaged in processing. One person came out and just seemed sort of, you know, something was obviously happening. It was like, you know, it was too much. It was too much. And again, there's no, no one gets killed. There's no murder. There's no horrific sexual assault. I mean, there's, there's nothing really. violent or aggressive happens, but there's a connection, like that you're present. And I think that maybe that's the thing that it's more difficult for audiences not to see. I mean, we've seen enough TV shows and movies that someone gets shot and killed. We've seen that happen in the medium. But we haven't sort of seen ourselves maybe as much. And so maybe the resistance is opening oneself.
[00:43:58.627] Kent Bye: I will say in the first scene there is the pulling off of a dress of the character which you know I feel like if someone has experienced sexual assault there may be some aspects that could be triggering but you never know with whatever someone's experienced that there could be something in there that's triggering in there so that's my reaction.
[00:44:15.730] Craig Quintero: And so again, it's difficult. I mean, it's like, how do you know who the audience is and what's happening? And, you know, hopefully, you know, each person takes out and through that there can be, you know, sort of a healthy self-reflexive process. But yeah, it's exciting. I showed it to my sister-in-law who had never seen like a VR film before. And we were in my brother and hers like a living room and she literally backed up like six feet. And then in the first scene, and then the second when she turned, and then in the third scene, she also backed up like three feet going the other direction. And it's just, it's, you know, that, it's like being in an elevator and someone's standing close to you, and there's a discomfort or an awareness of proximity. And obviously we're not, I mean, the goal is not to like, we will now make you feel uncomfortable, but there is to get close. We did this briefly, we did this one performance at a museum more than this in 2013. And like the final day, like it was for an audience one, each piece, I think it was about 13 minutes and we looped it. And so there's like a 10 minute or 15 minute break between and like eight of the 10 people that came out after the show were like crying. And it's interesting because, again, like, Romeo doesn't die or Juliet doesn't die. In the end, there's no plot or narrative or characters. And so the tears weren't for Romeo or Juliet. They were for themselves. And it was part of this Asian biennial, and so there's amazing paintings and sculptures and all this amazing work. But in a museum, we're used to seeing artwork and appreciating and talking about its structural or composition. But in a museum, very rarely does someone see a work of art and cry. And again, crying doesn't prove that it's good. But something happened. And I think in the same way, like how do we, you know, sometimes I think with VR, with technology or different mediums, we get so caught up in the medium that we forget about what is the journey. Like we start someplace and where do we end? If we start and end at the same place, that's not much of a trip. Right. And so how do you, what is the process of going from A to somewhere? And where that is, that's dependent on the audience and how far they go or where that takes them. But that idea of, like I said, if you begin to start at the same point, then why go?
[00:46:34.412] Kent Bye: Awesome. And finally, what do you think is the ultimate potential for virtual reality and what it might be able to enable?
[00:46:42.773] Craig Quintero: Yeah, I think it's been amazing being here and seeing the works that were curated as part of the film festival, like the VR festival. I mean, it's just like everyone, like radically different aesthetics and experiments. And like, as an artist, it's exciting to see the way other folks are playing with or experimenting with the medium. you know, sort of having worked through the pandemic as a theater instructor, it's like, oh, shit, now we've got to teach acting and or directing. And you're in your apartment or in your family room with your parents. Like, how does this happen? And during the pandemic, it was in one hand, like really, really difficult. And the other hand, it was just sort of really revolutionary because the students, like if you were taking an acting class, You also then needed to deal with lighting and costumes and set and props. You also were sort of, you know, sometimes they'd be moving their camera or thinking about what's the relationship or where do you place your camera or can it move in the scene? So there are also cinematographers, they're working with composition, how do we frame this? And they were becoming like total artists. And I think that so much of our life in academia, we still have like, I'm an actor, I'm in the theater department, or I'm in the art department. Theater or art, like those aren't connected. Or I'm in the music department. And so suddenly we had everybody was sort of like being like total artists. And it was really sort of emancipatory in terms of thinking of like, yeah. I can create, I am creating. And so I think that with VR it's a similar thing because we couldn't go see shows or theaters were closed down and so you can construct these VR experiences or digitally mediated experiences or we use this platform Wirecast so we have people in five different cities And we were sort of streaming a live performance and like cutting between like, go to camera one, go to camera three. And so it was like this really kind of fantastic of like, I mean, there's infinite ways to, like I was talking earlier about, to explore performance. We know, we know a play. We got it. Like, what now? And I think what's exciting, like stepping into the VR, like this ecosystem, is that nobody knows for sure. And it's such an exciting place to be that it's not a repetition of what we know, but it's a lot of asking questions.
[00:48:56.275] Kent Bye: Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?
[00:49:03.426] Craig Quintero: Yeah, I'm not sure when you're broadcasting this, but I'd like to just wish you a happy birthday yesterday. And actually, it's kind of interesting, and it's kind of weird, and I don't know if you'll edit this out, but it's kind of cool, like for listeners of your podcast. I don't know if you know that Hank's role, and just having met Hank three days ago, and it's kind of cool, like there is an ecosystem. And there is sort of your presence in documenting this for the past 11 or 13 years.
[00:49:28.368] Kent Bye: It's eight years, yeah.
[00:49:30.909] Craig Quintero: I'm exaggerating here. It's eight years. But it's sort of how, I mean, to record that. There's this history. And it's a living history. And so I think that would be really amazing. So if there's a listener out there who wants to transcribe these interviews, I mean, it's important documentation. And I think that's exciting is that you've done it for eight years. And if you do it for another eight years and we sit down again, like how will this medium have changed and I think that I went to some of the pitch sessions earlier today and there's a lot of cool things out there like the things that are you know in the works are amazing and I think that it's great to be part of this community.
[00:50:07.706] Kent Bye: Yeah, I get a lot of requests for transcripts and it's on the goal. I've been waiting for the AI to get good, but AI ends up you have to sort of correct it and ends up taking just as long as if you were to just transcribe it yourself. And so, and it's probably take 70 to 80 thousand dollars to sort of properly transcribe everything. So if there are people out there that want to... Yeah, rich listeners, this is your opportunity.
[00:50:28.996] Craig Quintero: You can be on the ground floor of this epic novel.
[00:50:32.278] Kent Bye: Yeah, I would love to have that. But yeah, I really enjoyed your piece. And like I said, it kind of walked out of it with a little bit into this liminal space of an altered state of consciousness. And I really appreciate it. It reminded me of a lot of those encounters that I've had in immersive theater. And so it was interesting to see the creating of video that you've made, which I'll highly recommend. People eventually get a chance to see this, I hope, and then get a chance to see the making of and listen to this conversation because Yeah, there's a lot of what you're doing in your process. And I think there's sort of elements of this kind of embodied presence in it. How to recreate an encounter with this virtual entity. I think that you've been able to really unpack a lot of really interesting and compelling stuff. Because a lot of virtual characters, you don't get a lot of the subtle performance aspects of a face. And so there's a lot of this piece that you're working with actors and the performances they give, I think, are really profound. And yeah, it was really striking and moving. And I really appreciate having the chance to be able to sit down and help unpack it all. So thank you.
[00:51:27.042] Craig Quintero: Great. Thank you very much.
[00:51:28.872] Kent Bye: So that was Craig Quintero. He's director of All That Remains. And if you'd like to hear more conversations about all the different pieces that I've talked about here at Venice Immersive, I'd recommend going back to episode 1121. I talk about each of the different 30 pieces in competition. And then 1144 will be a Venice Immersive panel on the art of reviewing immersive art and entertainment, which is a I think a good discussion that talks about a lot of what I'm trying to do with these oral history and podcast series of looking at immersive art and immersive entertainment. 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 listener-supported podcast, and so 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 voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.