sundance-new-frontier-2020
In my final episode of my coverage from Sundance New Frontier 2020, I speak with chief curator Shari Frilot about some of the themes of the line-up of XR experiences that were programmed this year. There were a number of themes the embodiment, social dynamics, and integrating more aspects of theater culminating in the new Biodigital Theatre this year featuring two social VR experiences (Atomu for 5 people and All Kinds of Limbo for 20 people) as well as Anti-Gone, which was a mixed reality play with a capacity of around 50 people.

We also talk about the dynamics of empathy, and how pieces like The Book of Distance and Still Here are providing embodied interactions that create connections to the pain of experiences. Frilot differentiates how a virtual reality simulation can’t replicate the full experience of trauma, but it can create embodied situations and environmental contexts that help to evoke the pains of an experience. Immersive experiences are painting with memories and embodied experiences of the audience, which means that XR as a medium can evoke associations of our own traumas, but it’s impossible to recreate the full context and character of experiences that unfold over a significant period of time (such as being incarcerated for 5, 10, or 20 years).

Another theme that came up this year was the increase of skepticism of technology. That’s seen in documentary films like Coded Bias and The Social Dilemma this year, The Great Hack and The Cleaners in previous years. This was explored more in depth in the New Frontier VR piece Persuasion Machines, and Frilot is actively looking to artists and creatives as they explore the dynamics of this emerging data economy and where they could fit into it.

Finally, we look at some of the underlying affordances of immersive storytelling and how it differs from other mediums like film. We explore the intersection of different mediums that had an influence on narrative feature films Zola and Spree, but also the combination of iPhone video composited in a cubist 360 video in Flowers and a Switchblade, the fusion of theater, Twitch.tv streaming, and open world exploration in Anti-Gone, the fusion of 360 video and literature in Go, and the combination of group ritual, embodied performance, and dance in Atomu.

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Music: Fatality

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