Tribeca Immersive 2019: A VR Arcade In Review
Award-winning mixed-reality pushes boundaries, but needs more viewers.
With a steady stream of visitors making up the packed queue hours prior to opening and reports of tickets for every time-slot being sold out each of the nine days of Tribeca Immersive, the festival easily hit a high mark for attention on mixed reality and similar content.
Now a few years into curating immersive experiences, including this year’s Cinema360 theater and the spacey Virtual Arcade, Tribeca Film Festival has firmly planted its flag as an advocate for digital design and emerging tech by acknowledging the art of creators working at the intersection of augmented, virtual and mixed-reality overall.
With social impact in mind, Senior Programmer for Film and Immersive at Tribeca Film Festival, Loren Hammonds, and his team clearly consider the ripple effect of their selections. The exhibition stands alone in many ways as a cultural touchpoint on trending issues, civil rights, and experimental storytelling via new media.
This year it featured a considerably large body of work by female directors, such as Tribeca-award-winning Celine Tricart of The Key, international artists—like the cast and crew of Future Dreaming—unconventional adventures, as depicted in Ayahuasca by Jan Kounen, and timely subjects; akin to the lesbians in Another Dream struggling to seek asylum from Northern Africa.
Pieces like Lance Weiler’s emotionally-charged ‘escape room,’ Where There’s Smoke, and Noah Levenson’s ode to technological transparency, Stealing Ur Feelings, brought complementary content to the engaging mixed-reality works all around.
Many festivals are working globally to incorporate mixed reality works into their curation, but Tribeca is often regarded by creators as a gold standard thanks to the efforts put behind the production of the VR arcade. From mandatory lighting and set design throughout the space, to AR pieces like Into The Light built specifically for Tribeca Immersive, this selection brightly colored a playful, pushy and provocative sense as to what mixed reality entertainment will be.
That being said, it was difficult for ticket-holders to experience the full range of pieces on the show floor as the code has yet to be perfectly cracked regarding the best way to facilitate screenings and demos.
The issue is not unique to Tribeca, as many other festivals, conventions and conferences featuring virtual and augmented reality are working diligently to find solutions to better promote a smooth sign-up and registration process for viewing immersive content. As an industry, we have yet to fully resolve how best to share mixed-reality art at a large, public scale.
Overall, Tribeca Immersive serves as a temporary and loving home to touring works and debuts alike. From complicated, grand installations that filled corners of the wing, to the work of smaller groups who patiently built out booths lining the aisle of entrances, there seemed to have been a loose theme of community celebration; an air of wonderment flowed freely.