#562: Using Dance as Embodied Communication & Pushing the Boundaries of Editing & Movement with ‘Through You’

Through You - Director Lily BaldwinDance is all about bodies moving through space, and it’s something that shows the strength of the VR medium since there’s something that’s lost when it’s translated onto a 2D screen. Lily Baldwin observed how audience members heard the music differently through her expressions as a dancer touring with David Byrne, and she wanted to experiment with using dance a form of embodied communciation within virtual reality. She teamed up with VR filmmaker Saschka Unseld to create Through You, which is an emotional and poetic experimental film that pushes the boundaries of what’s possible with camera movements and over 200 edits.

I had a chance to catch up with Baldwin at the Sundance Film Festival where we talk about her refined perception of body language, how she used bodies moving through space to communicate visceral emotion, and how they’re pushing the limits of editing and camera movement within VR. Through You
was released on Gear VR through the Oculus Video app available in the Oculus Store on August 1st, and is now available.

Subscribe on iTunes

Donate to the Voices of VR Podcast Patreon

Music: Fatality & Summer Trip

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. So dance is all about bodies moving through space. And whenever that gets translated into a 2D screen, there's just something about the energy that gets lost. But with virtual reality, you can start to really feel the visceral nature of bodies moving through space. And this is something that I've seen in a lot of different immersive theater performances where they use interpretive dance in order to non-verbally communicate the story. Everything from Sleep No More to Then She Fell, moving away from using language to communicate and exploring the possibilities of what you can do with using the body to communicate. And VR is a perfect medium to start to do experiments with how to communicate through dance. So, the short film Through You is an experimental poem that's really exploring the extent that you can both use dance as a communication medium, but also seeing how you can do camera movements as well as just editing. It's really pushing the limits and the boundaries of what's even possible. In fact, they say that they're breaking a lot of rules. So, I had a chance to talk to one of the creators, Lily Baldwin, who collaborated with Shostaka Unseld, and it premiered at Sundance. we have a chat about this process of breaking the rules and what she was really going for both in the poetic and symbolic nature of what she was trying to communicate through the piece, but also just using dance as a form of communication. So that's what we'll be covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. And this interview with Lily happened at the Sundance Film Festival that was happening from January 19th to 27th, 2017 in Park City, Utah. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:01:53.171] Lily Baldwin: My name is Lily Baldwin, and I'm here with Through You, a project that I co-directed with Sashka Unseld. This is my first project ever in VR. And Through You is a never-ending love story told through time, where you are a lover through time, exploring body, color, sound, to give you this visceral, kind of kinetic relationship to narrative.

[00:02:15.747] Kent Bye: Yeah, when I watched it, I immediately thought of Sleep No More, which is an immersive theater experience where there's no dialogue, there's no words, and it's done just through interpretive dance. And I felt like this was a similar kind of like interpretive dance of like there was a lot that was being communicated through dance. So maybe you could talk about dance as a medium and why it is perhaps well suited to be done in VR.

[00:02:38.598] Lily Baldwin: Yeah, I mean, it's sort of who and how I am. I was a professional dancer for 10 years. It is how I've always known myself, by finding my edges, by working hard. Then in doing so, I sort of study bodies in space, and that's sort of where I see narrative and stories, and I remember bodies more than I remember words or names. and feel like I can read someone by their bodies, by their scapula, by their tailbone. You know, I can see someone's eyes and feel like, oh my god, I know you stand on the outer edges of your feet and probably have a left knee torsion. And I kind of have this sense of body as like body filter, anatomy filter, sort of how I see things. I was dancing with David Byrne and that's when I started to make films and realized that people heard the music more when we were dancing on stage with this visual, physical thing that they could see and also kind of feel in space. I think that live performance is amazing for that kind of exchange. I call it kind of an electric exchange. That's also kind of an electric form of communication where Bodies say what words don't. I often find that we lose a lot when we put something into words, and there's a lot of inherent contradiction in narrative, in humanity, and in empathizing with a protagonist or whatnot, and I like to play with sort of the double-edged sword that somebody is. Those are the larger themes of my work, and since starting to make films, these raw stop-motion films, and I was just photographing myself in hotel rooms, I've been working in short-form space, trying to fit myself into two-dimensional frame. And I love a limitation, because then it kind of has me solving things in creative ways. VR... Sashko approached me and said, let's play in VR. We've been wanting to work on something for a while, and so essentially VR is the ultimate space to keep exploring the stage and a level of kind of authentic humanity, which is important to me in my filmmaking.

[00:04:28.957] Kent Bye: Yeah, the thing as you were just talking there, it reminded me of my experience of going through Sleep No More, which is an experience where there was no dialogue. And I think that, you know, you have the left and right brain and that whenever you hear words and language, it puts you into that left brain way of thinking. And that the right brain is much more spatial and relational and maybe non-linear and I feel like people often say that much of our communication is up to 60 to 90 percent non-verbal and so what you're saying is really resonating in the sense that so much of a performance can embody that sense of presence and that emotional authenticity. I think that moving your body in a way that I don't think the words can really describe as well.

[00:05:12.951] Lily Baldwin: Yeah, I mean, just kind of bouncing off that, you know, I think that there's a lot of things we know that we don't know we know. And I've always struggled with linearity as well in storytelling. And so VR works, there's multiple times happening at once, as in multiple realities happening at once, as happens in real life. And for me, that sets up an amazing premise for simultaneous action, and also basically putting the viewer, making them culpable in a space. And I really see the function, the structure, the basic structures of VR puts you, the viewer, either as an invisible witness, or slash a silent protagonist, or a visible being that is mute. I mean, you're one of those two things. I can't imagine being something else. So it's like, OK, what are the stories that need to put you inside of that experience?

[00:06:04.358] Kent Bye: Yeah, whether you're a ghost or you're a character, I think, is, you know, and whether or not you have impact or no impact. And I think with this medium, you're essentially sort of sitting back and as a ghost and watching this unfold. And one of the things that I think VR as a medium can do for dance that you can't do in a live performance is that you can start to mess with time and start to show things over a period of time. And so maybe you could talk about the amount of edits that you're doing in here. I think it's probably one of the most highly edited experiences that I've ever seen in VR. And so maybe talk a bit about what you were trying to do stylistically there.

[00:06:37.822] Lily Baldwin: Yeah, I mean all of my work is pretty massively edited in terms of cutting on action with bodies and I taught myself to edit just by basically making a lot of mistakes over and over again and seeing what I could get away with in terms of creating this new dance form and I actually want to remove the word dance from the conversation even though it's a nice in and a nice claim to fame around stuff but it's really just articulate bodies in space. I mean you can turn a non-trained dancer, a pedestrian, you, this conversation into a dance through editing, through a camera's relationship to body and then what you do with the edit. So for me, the editing has just always been a way to reincarnate what happened. And not that you have to, maybe a single take is just what it needs. So the question is what narrative does need editing in what way, obviously. But in terms of VR, I took all that that I've been doing and just wanted to play with cutting on action and kind of rhythmic bouncing rhythmically through time. When we go from the 70s, 1971, through 2043, and I think we have seven scene changes. And the way Sashka and I edited, it was actually kind of amazing. I've never worked so collaboratively. Like, literally, he would write the script, I would write on top of him, back and forth. We had the same premiere project that we would send, and we would just slice into each other's sequences. And then when we got towards the end, I mean, we did this in two and a half weeks. It was so intense, right over the holidays and the new year. I would essentially get into this sort of intense minutia and sort of find this new dance inside of the uniting of this dance. Because we actually thought it was pretty boring, some of the stuff without the cuts. But how do we innervate this? How do we kind of jar us and then push us forward? And what is the new medium here? And then you would come in and I would have like probably seven minute sequences. that is now something that's two minutes or 30 seconds, and he would come in and propose structurally reorganizing it. So the two of our brains work very differently, kind of macro-micro, structural, large story, and I love the minutia of like cutting from pinky to elbow. Like I'd always cut before somebody blinks. or on a blink. And you don't even know it, but it does make a difference. So the two of us together created this thing that was really just about us wanting to push the space in VR forward and ask questions and encourage other people to do what they haven't, they didn't think they could do.

[00:08:59.481] Kent Bye: Yeah, and just in talking to different people who have created experiences, I know in talking to the creator of Pearl, he was saying that they created both a 2D version and a 3D version, and that he found that they had to have less cuts in the VR version. So I felt like there was a lot of really aggressive camera movements in this experience. You're kind of really pushing the edge of what is possible in VR. So I'm just curious to hear maybe some of your process of what things you were specifically trying to do with both the camera movements and the hyper-editing.

[00:09:28.363] Lily Baldwin: The hyper-editing, yeah. I'd say active editing. And I love a good difference of opinion. Sashko and I started playing, the first time we created something was with, we were basically dancing together and there was a camera between us. And we've got some amazing footage that we were really excited about and people were really responsive to. He was with a 5D, I was dancing with my friend Lawrence. We posted actually a clip online with that and just made a short sort of intimate dance film and he was right up in there. You know we have our own chemistry and so I would also be with Lawrence but I would also be with Sashka and Sashka happened to be holding the 5D. We can't see that because that was not a 360 camera but so then we took that we did a test to Jaunt and where he is literally just moving the Jaunt one around this huge studio and kind of spinning it and I'm like literally kind of running and lunging and jumping and And same thing, I didn't want to dance with the camera, I was into dancing with him. So we just, what we found through all this trial, and we did one more test shoot in a house, was with this movement and this relationship to this body, it's like we could actually get away with so much more, because I actually felt like I was connecting with the camera on an emotional level, or the person holding the camera. So I would actually look at Sashka, and then look down at this being between us. I mean it became kind of esoteric a little bit and we weren't afraid to be emotionally connected to the hardware of it. So all this stuff was sort of, we got away with it and it was exciting and kind of exhilarating. So we recreated that on set and through you. We wore these black suits, me and Sashka, and then our DP, Dahmer Weaver Madsen. We covered the floors in black so we could then comp ourselves out. So we wanted to move the camera because we wanted that human response to body. So literally most of the time it was Sashka and Damar on the ground moving the camera, being very specific about the trajectory. It was a tripod with wheels with the jaunt one on it. And then I was directing the bodies. I was directing the performers. So that's our camera movement. Because basically we, in this piece, you are a lover and you're a memory. And then essentially you are her. We're going to get esoteric on this. We create our own memories and our memories are us. So that is sort of the explanation around being consumed in the fire and then returning to inside of this woman.

[00:11:44.019] Kent Bye: Can you expand on that relationship? Because, you know, as the camera, you're the first person perspective. Can you connect the dots between that and memory and what you're talking about here?

[00:11:51.812] Lily Baldwin: Yeah, and I just want to say also that me and Sashka talk about it differently and we're really excited about that too. You know, we don't want, there is not one answer. This is about putting you inside of an extreme physical place as much as we can get away with here in VR and empathizing with these old and young bodies and then seeing what you take out of it and we encourage that. But some of the more hard-knock contentions of this piece were beginning inside of sex, being intimate with this woman, not wanting to objectify her. What does it mean to have a body be with you and have her feel special to us. So to establish a sense of connection with this woman, she then breaks up with us and then walks through us. And we have these flashes of inside of our body. And then from that point, we trail her as this sort of nonstop, hungry, persistent, enduring memory, this feeling, this person that then she kind of pulls with us and that we kind of can't let go of her. That at the very end, she looks at us occasionally and we're just there. And literally we lower the camera height as we become a memory. And she glances at us at these very key moments. And then until the very end, when she's 92, she just looks at us and says, OK, you've been here this whole time. It's time to put you to rest.

[00:13:03.144] Kent Bye: Oh, that's interesting. Yeah, because I was having trouble connecting the meaning between some of the scenes and even the timeline in terms of when stuff was happening.

[00:13:11.816] Lily Baldwin: Yeah, we're asking a lot of you and it's okay. You know, the question is can we give people permission to not know in a way or to enjoy asking the questions? But I mean, I just have to say that production design, like we have a Polaroid that was from 1978 and we used that actual sound from the 78 camera. We have a Nikon in 2013 and the Christmas scene. So we upgrade the TVs and the phones through time and interested in having these elements kind of mark story too, production-wise. Yeah, I mean, there's so much more to say, but color is something we thought a lot about, too. How to create emotional landscape and feeling through color.

[00:13:48.044] Kent Bye: What were you doing there?

[00:13:49.437] Lily Baldwin: Yeah, I mean, there's so many details that we can't see in VR at this point in terms of the resolution, which I found frustrating because I love sweat and pores and especially for exploring intimacy. I miss that. So we felt like to solve that, we came up with two things. One was the way I directed bodies was much more specificity, especially with hands in space and used architecture of bodies read more than quick, fast, flowy movement. Like they became kind of letters in space and then color. giving them these quadrants of color to exist in that kind of would give us an emotional reaction as the viewer. And then there's one scene at the very end where the old Julia looks at us and as she looks at us the whole room goes from icy lavender to this like creamy peach and it's just like augmenting the recognition through color and sound.

[00:14:38.587] Kent Bye: Yeah, and just in going back to the movement and to kind of dive into a little bit of the technical parts of it and things that I thought worked and didn't work. So in terms of movement, I think moving straightforward and backward works in the sense that if you don't have a lot of optical flow and the floor is black, then it's... It can be comfortable. I think it starts when you move sideways or diagonal. Our vestibular system isn't used to us moving in a strafing fashion. And so for me, that's a big motion sickness trigger. So I actually felt motion sickness after watching it. And the other comment that I would say about just the pacing of editing is that You know, in music there's crescendos and decrescendos and there's like spaces where it's not moving so much, but it kind of felt like a flat, you know, constant barrage of fast edits rather than a push and pull and crescendo and decrescendo to kind of match some sort of narrative that was unfolding in some way. And so I felt like it was kind of indiscriminate in a way. A lot of the movements were just kind of just let's move in every shot and see what we can get away with.

[00:15:37.298] Lily Baldwin: Yeah, I mean, I appreciate, I hear where you're coming from and I disagree.

[00:15:41.580] Kent Bye: Maybe you could expand on that, I'm curious to hear.

[00:15:45.441] Lily Baldwin: I can agree with how you felt, obviously, and support that, and this is about you having your reaction. I'm just saying, disagree in terms of my experience is really different, and other feedback has been really different, and others have been similar. I want to stand behind the choices we made. I do feel like We spent, we rushed the fuck out of finishing this. And we were just saying we would love to take a month off and then come back in with perspective and look at it. And I do think that there was the desire, we had this, finally we got it down to like a good 25 minute piece. and then cutting that down and cutting that in and having the eyes to kind of objectively know what to cut and remove and what to squish. You know, I think that those are all, when editing under tight circumstances, how to achieve and not lose. Like, how do you judge that? So I think that there was, not a disclaimer, but like just to fill you in, like it was a clusterfuck to finish and it was just me and Sashka doing it. But I will stand behind wanting to I don't want to affront the nervous system and I don't want to lose the audience. You know, that's important to me. I do feel like the way dance is presented, it's often presented in this very proscenium way in a lot of film and it just sort of takes the idea of performing on a stage and puts it in front of a camera and just deals with the camera as the proscenium space and you are the audience sitting in a red chair enjoying this view. So I would like to energize people's ability to take movement in their face.

[00:17:05.650] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I think that, you know, when I think of the Hegelian process of creation, which is the thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, and I think that through you is really the initial thesis. There really isn't a lot of other pieces that are doing as ambitious movement and direction in this way. And so I think my antithesis is like, well, maybe that's too much. Can you not move sideways because that makes me sick? So you're kind of doing trade-offs versus like user comfort versus the artistic. You know, sometimes you can induce a little motion sickness for a dramatic effect, but If it's kind of constant, then I kind of come out of the experience feeling nauseous, which feels like, okay, wow, I really wanted to watch it, but there's some physical limitations with my body for actually being able to consume it, which right now in VR, there's a wide range and spectrum of tolerance for what people are able to view. And I would also say with people going through VR for the first time, they may not be attuned and sensitive to their triggers. there's often a delay for motion sickness. So if they see something, they may actually feel sick 5 to 10 to 30 minutes later. So just from doing hundreds of VR experiences and being able to see what my triggers are, there was things that were triggering.

[00:18:10.638] Lily Baldwin: Yeah. And I will just say on that note, there's so many different, everyone is different with what makes them nauseous. Um, and I, I've, you've seen more VR than I have. Like, and I'm, you know, I am new to this field and I'm the first, I'm just so into saying that as I'm thrust into like the apex of it. There's a lot of people, especially older women that have never seen VR that saw this piece that I was talking to yesterday. It was like three older women that weren't nauseous at all. And I'm always asking that cause I know I'm asking a lot of them. So I really feel like it does depend on the person.

[00:18:37.335] Kent Bye: And I think that Dan's performance and, you know, the ways that you're moving bodies around, I think that there's an ability to cultivate a certain level of intimacy that I think was really powerful as well. You know, just sort of the evocative nature of some of the imagery that you're showing. Maybe you could talk a bit about, like, that process of how you see VR as uniquely able to cultivate that level of intimacy that you may not be able to get in a 2D representation.

[00:19:01.601] Lily Baldwin: Yeah, I mean, I think living in a space where you can look around, you exist in a space, whether you have a body or not. I mean, at this point, I like not having, we thought a lot about this, giving ourselves a body or not. And I just wanted to remove that because I wanted as many people to experience this and empathize with what was happening and not say, oh, you have a deep void. Like we removed breath of the viewer. at times, because I was like, oh, you know, before they become a memory, let's give them a sense of body. But the breath, you can always tell if it's a man or a woman's breath, and that would immediately shape the narrative. So I just want it to be as objective as possible for anyone to come into this. But for me, as the viewer, when you just exist in a space already, the 360 degree space immediately implicates presence. So when you feel present, I feel like you exist in space. Then I feel like you can be more receptive and feel what's in front of you. Like if I'm watching something and I'm not in what I'm watching, already it's over there. So like the innate 360 space says I'm somehow necessary or I'm implicated. So within that, that's like a leg up majorly. I think this idea of something feeling real. I don't know if in VR it feels real. It feels virtual real. Like it's not real. It's like other real, but it's not hyper real, but it's something I don't have a name for yet, but it does engage, like kind of changes my breathing. Like there's something physical that happens in that space. I also think it's also disorienting to be in this space and then put something on and not be where I am. And I think that level of it kind of fucks with us for a minute. And I think in fucking with leaving a place that's real and going to another place that's not here at all opens us up. So I think the premise of VR is like the basics of what makes VR VR is just automatic intimacy ripe. Then what do you do with it? You have a performer who doesn't over perform. You light them in a way where you see their body. You get them to open as a performer, and then you, how do you feel seen? You know, that's about them as performance.

[00:21:03.317] Kent Bye: Yeah, when you were talking about presence, it just made me think of contrasting two kind of opposite extremes of the approach to presence, which is through you versus my Yubi. And my Yubi, it's 40 minutes long and there's like a number of scenes, but there's no cuts within the individual scene. They only cut when they're moving to another scene. And I find that the work of Felix DePaul with cinematic VR allows me to really get grounded in the sense of place. And Mel Slater has this, he says that there's two illusions. There's the place illusion and the plausibility illusion. The place illusion is how you generally cultivate presence within a VR experience. And when you cut so quickly, I can't actually get physically present. Like I can't get the sense of a place illusion when I feel like I'm getting thrown around so much. I don't even, I can't sometimes getting oriented into where I am. And because of that, I feel like this kind of disembodied entity as I'm watching it, which is an effect within itself, but it's not actually cultivating a sense of place illusion and presence for me.

[00:21:58.495] Lily Baldwin: Yeah, I think a lot of people didn't feel that way, too. I mean, I think it's great that that's sort of this onslaught of body. And where does that put you and your body? And what does that tell us or you about yourself? And other people felt completely invigorated by that. And I'm really not into defending it. I feel like I could see it all, and I'm still learning. But I'm actually so glad that you're bringing this up, because these are the questions I want to have. But everyone's so fucking tentative, and I'm just like over it. What do you mean? What I was saying about dance being presented in bodies in this sort of beautiful, kind of pastoral, elegant, like let me take beauty at a distance or let's shoot a ballet dancer on a phantom and jizz them all over it. I just feel like this was an opportunity to kind of slice into this invigorating heat of physicality. And I think it can be sculpted and paced and that's something that Sashka and I would definitely want to do and we will do. We have a bunch of other pieces that we're going to be making that are all quite different. I mean, I'd actually love for you to see the tests we did where it's just there's not a lot of cutting and it's much more crazy movement and I'm kind of coming in and out and kind of appearing behind walls and doing different things. Anyway, but I I just feel like people They need bodies to feel good and we don't like people want bodies to feel good They feel affronted because people are often disconnected from their body And I feel like when they don't they're not even aware of their feet on the ground what they're doing. It's like ah I'm like you guys need to get in yourself Take a deep breath and respond to that more and I'm not saying I need to slice you in half, you know But that is something that is important to me to have the conversation for us to be talking about it

[00:23:35.364] Kent Bye: Yeah, I know, I've seen a number of different experiences which were dance and there was no cuts and they were pretty, you know, you watch it for a little bit but there's a whole dance sequence and I think you're right in the sense that it does get a little boring and so I think with your approach of doing a lot of these cuts it actually makes it, you're paying more attention and, you know, sometimes when I was looking at it I would sort of lose the action and then before I would even be able to see where it was at. So it's more of like, as an experience, and you have the user agency where they're able to look all around the room, I found myself wanting to get really oriented in each of the locations, but never really able to really get oriented because I'm in a new place and I want to kind of like, where am I at? What's the context? And when I do, it's cut, and then I'm looking back. So it was almost like training me to not turn my head.

[00:24:22.882] Lily Baldwin: except that they would run past you at times and move. I mean, I think we did decide to explore less of the 360 space given the cuts we were doing. Like, I had actually proposed a couple things where they're dancing behind us and we don't know where they are and then we have to find them. And Sashko was actually really, and I trusted him, you know, in this process my first time, wanting us to, if we're gonna do the cuts this much, let's really key, like, offset properly and not disorient the viewer too much. You know, but I, another thing is I just wanted you to feel, I don't want you to necessarily know where you are, I just want you to feel something. I don't need you to figure it out. I just want to put you here and change your breath pattern and not want you to just sit down and relax.

[00:25:02.132] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think one of the things that I try to, I'm probably one of the more aggressive VR viewers that I'm, you know, I've come up with my own style of how to view a film in VR. And often when I'm looking around, it's my own process of trying to have that embodied cognition of really trying to orient myself in space and time. And so sometimes when I'm watching a piece like Through You, when I'm looking around and it cuts, I feel penalized for looking around.

[00:25:24.800] Lily Baldwin: want to miss out. And that's a big thing. I don't want you to feel like you're losing out. I want you to feel like you are honored in this and you're with us. That you're not also not keeping up with the speed of it. You know that's definitely not the case. So I think for me it's always how can I give someone permission to like to grow and to stretch and feel uncomfortable and then to rest and digest and kind of collect themselves. And everyone's temperaments are so different. And I mean I think what would you just talking about this now like With this, would you suggest keeping some of the intensity of cuts and then just creating longer takes or just slowing down the whole cuts, like in your dream?

[00:25:57.624] Kent Bye: Well, in my dream, I would, I mean, here's the first thought is that this is by its nature a nonlinear experience. So it's difficult to say this is going to be the unique template that's going to be work for everybody. But for me, just having the opportunity to orient myself in the space when I'm in a new space. and so when I'm thrown around quickly into all these different spaces then not being able to feel oriented then when you're moving around the cuts of the camera then I'm getting lost and I feel like confused and that like it actually makes me feel more disconnected so having that balance of being able to get grounded into a space, but then from there being able to cut. But that's kind of also an artistic decision that you, as a creator, have to make. And I think it's also like, I often think of the process of VR as a three-pronged process of, for one, there's the technology that's enabling what's able to be created. the content and the creators that are using the extent of what the technology is enabling. And then there's the audience that is able to watch it. And so the technology is on the leading edge. The creators are trying to figure out what they can do with the content, and then audiences are at the dead last. And so there's some people that have never seen any VR at all. and there's other people who have seen a lot of VR and they know how to kind of like experience it and really get it and so I've seen a lot of VR and so it's like I have my own style and it was just sort of like a style mismatch but for some people it could be totally their style and so I think it's difficult to say like there's going to be one universal template that works for everybody but that's just sort of how I think about it.

[00:27:22.625] Lily Baldwin: I really appreciate a strong style. I have another piece I'm working on called Glass Invisible You. I don't know if you want to talk about it for a sec or not, but it's a mixture. It puts you inside of the stalking experience. It's going to be a mixture of live action and animation. something that I'm really excited about, kind of this idea of becoming invisible to become invincible and playing with extremes and probably paring down. I mean, this was like a feature film, what we put in this, like the arc of a fucking lifetime. It was epic. And we wanted to do that and say yes. So with this next project, I'm really excited about actually being really clean about the trajectory of fear, loss, the darkest of darks, and falling down and down. And then from that bottom, there's this point of invisible zero. And then you boomerang up and become this sort of avatar superhero self. And I'm thinking, just for me, that's the next kind of exploration of more linear trajectory that's a little more comic book-y in structure, but then still has these stylistic elements. Yeah.

[00:28:24.207] Kent Bye: Well, what do you want to experience in VR then?

[00:28:25.948] Lily Baldwin: Yeah. That's such a good question. I mean, I want to experience things that I've never experienced. I mean, I'd like to learn something. I'd like to find something unexpected happen where I think I'm somewhere, but then something else happens. And I'm like, oh my God, no way. I'm talking like really basic stuff. Because I like to think about things in terms of emotional landscape and where it leaves me. So I'm like, oh, wow. And then also, I didn't even know that existed. That I love. That's why I love traveling and just getting me outside of my world. But then having something I know, I'm like, oh, I know. I know what that wooden board looks like. But then suddenly that wooden board becomes something else or becomes a portal or becomes another kind of experience. So this idea of animating the everyday, reanimating and kind of reincarnating. I love that. And I want like physical prowess. I love feeling good in my body. I love doing shit and feeling free and strong and flexible. And it makes me happy. And I also feel like when people feel their bodies more that the world will be a better place. I have this premise where if we feel our bodies, we'll feel responsible, we'll feel culpable. And then with that, change can happen.

[00:29:39.820] Kent Bye: Awesome. And finally, what do you see as kind of the ultimate potential of virtual reality and what it might be able to enable?

[00:29:46.085] Lily Baldwin: I think a sense of... I think ultimately opening up who you think you are. Not being so rigid with your sense of self.

[00:29:58.173] Kent Bye: Awesome. Anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say?

[00:30:01.856] Lily Baldwin: No, I really had a great time. And I really appreciate how clear and not shy you are. I feel like the space of VR is like, I just, I'm having so many fruitful, ripe conversations around what, I'm really startled and broken about the state of our world right now, and I need to put myself inside of a community and do work that is gonna wake shit up. That's a big thing for me, waking things up, so I just feel really, this is a great conversation, thank you for waking me up a little bit more. Everyone who's listening, just take a moment to wake up to something else, however you can.

[00:30:37.802] Kent Bye: Awesome, well thank you so much.

[00:30:39.428] Lily Baldwin: Yeah, thanks.

[00:30:40.823] Kent Bye: So that was Lily Baldwin. She's a dancer who collaborated with Sashka Unsell on the film called Through You, which was just released on August 1st on the Samsung Gear VR. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, I just want to take a step back and say that whenever I watch a VR piece, I have my initial gut feeling about it. And then sometimes after I talk to an artist about the piece and what they were trying to do and talk about their process and their intentions, I have new thoughts and ideas, and it changes my ideas about that original piece. And I think that through the process of this conversation, I had had that experience because I had my own experience of Through You. I got a little bit of motion sickness from it. And there's a lot of really cryptic, symbolic things that were being communicated that I didn't necessarily was able to understand. So it's like a poem in that way. It's like a cryptic poem that you have to feel and experience. Now, I don't think that Through You is trying to necessarily cultivate this sense of embodied presence in the viewer. Because they're cutting so much, it actually creates this really chaotic sense of disembodiment. And they're trying to use that as a mechanism to evoke all these visceral emotions and feelings. And I definitely say that there are some very evocative scenes that are in this piece. I think it's an experiment and I think it's going to be one of those things that when you watch it, you're going to either really get it and love it or it may be something that you're like, ah, you know, I'm not sure if that was really for me. And I think that because this is a piece that is making a lot of those bold decisions, there's some people that I talked to that, you know, absolutely loved it and felt the visceral emotion of it. And there's other people that maybe thought that the cutting was too aggressive. So I think it's a matter of temperament, like knowing your own temperament and seeing that there's different styles of experiences that are going to be well suited for different temperaments. I think in this temperament, it's a lot about appreciating the moving body, using dance as a communication medium, and then this other level of poetic emotion that is evoked and generated through an experience like this. And so I really admire what Lily and Sashka were trying to do here in terms of trying to push the limit and the boundaries. Because I think that there was a little bit of stagnation in terms of, as a creative, they thought there were too boxed in in terms of they wanted to experiment with doing all these different things. And so they painted the floor black and they were able to composite themselves out as they were making all these really aggressive camera moves. So this experience is now available on the Samsung Gear VR. It was released on August 1st. So you can go check it out and see what you think. So that's all that I have for today. 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 become a member of the Patreon. Just a few dollars a month makes a huge difference. So you can become a member today at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.

More from this show