Revealing Reality in Imaginary Worlds — Part 1 | by Sarah Wolozin | Nov, 2022

Revealing Reality in Imaginary Worlds — Part 1 | by Sarah Wolozin | Nov, 2022

Spread the love

A three-part series about how the virtual reality storytellers of Venice Immersive used the power of virtual reality to guide participants through imaginary worlds to uncover hidden truth

Screenshot with floating golden fists in boxing stance.  Behind them, a floating macabre celestial being with supernova eyes and mouth waits.  Deep blue and teal backdrop
Image from “Fight Back” courtesy of Céline Tricart

A city on water with floating buildings, bridges and gondolas, and canals for thoroughfares, it’s only fitting that Venice is home to Venice Immersive, a magnificent display of 3D worlds explored through VR headsets. In virtual reality, you find yourself transported to a colorful array of worlds, from bustling ancient Egyptian tombs to fantasy worlds like Gumball Lounge. Alone or with others, your job is to explore these worlds and to find the stories. Some worlds are completely fantastical while others are simulated real worlds created using data capture techniques such as photogrammetry or lidar scanning. All are created in game engines and use a glomeration of languages ​​and grammars from video games, immersive theater, documentary, film, dance and/or architecture among others.

At the intersection of these areas, new languages ​​and grammars are bubbling. Using real-time 3D game engines, stories move forward with techniques such as scavenger hunts, live actors, and virtual stages mapped onto physical sets that participants walk through, sometimes revealing what is real along the way. The scene changes depending on where the participant moves their hands and eyes. The documentaries at Venice Immersive ranged from live action to animation.

I sat down with three artists who created imaginary worlds and characters to engage audiences with pressing real-world issues. Participants were expected to experience non-fiction content by traveling the world and learning its language. What follows is part one of a three-part series highlighting each of these artists and the worlds they built.

“Fight Back” by Celine Tricart

Céline Tricart is no stranger to Virtual Reality as she created the award-winning project “The Key” (2019) which won the Grand Jury Prize at Venice in 2019. She started her career as a filmmaker but now easily from cinema to virtual reality. In our conversation, she talks about how difficult it is for filmmakers working in VR who are used to framing and editing scenes to control what you see.

Céline Tricart: “I think I understand the difference between cinema and virtual reality, and a lot of people coming from cinema struggle with this difference, of being a first-person medium and having neither, no transformation of your perception between you and the story. And so the way you tell the story, it’s completely different in film than it is in virtual reality. And it’s also very different in video games. Just so to adapt.”

“Fight Back” is in the form of a game in which you must release a certain number of shadow stars. The project is about gender-based violence and the shadows are the participants’ own fears that they must overcome. Each star you release teaches you a move of self-defense. You must make the move correctly (measured by hand tracking) to move forward. Tricart shares, “They [the moves] are very basic. They’re like the first step in self-defense, but it’s a very important first step. And through the game, you can do these gestures over and over and over again. The game lasts about 40 minutes. And in those 40 minutes you create the first muscle memory and the first reflexes in your brain.

“I try to see everything through the eyes of my future players or participants. I use participants for experiments and players for games. It is very important not to think from the position of the director or the storyteller. It would be like, ‘Okay, people don’t know anything about my world and my history. They will put on a VR headset. What will they see first, and how will we guide them through the experience? It’s about creating a world around them and gently guiding them through the experience, but really trying to imagine what they will do, what they will see and how they will feel in this world that you create.

“I think people who have experience in immersive theater, for example, really understand what it means to tell stories for virtual reality, because they have to follow the same kind of rules. And also, I’m a LARPer [live action role playing gamer]. I’ve been doing LARPs all my life since I was a teenager. And it’s a form of storytelling that I find fascinating that has also prepared and trained me to think for virtual reality.

The use of virtual reality as a training tool is well documented, from medical procedures to pilot training. In its new immersive media adaptations, there are still a lot of problems.

We realized that manual tracking wasn’t exactly ready at that moment. There are a few things he’s very good at and there’s a lot of things he’s not very good at, for example, fast movements. Fast moves are really bad for hand tracking, and it’s a bit difficult when you’re doing a game where you’re actually fighting not to get too excited and move really fast. So we have to constantly remind people to stay relaxed, stay calm, and make slow, precise gestures at the right time. So it’s more of an exercise in self-control. We had to transform that a bit. And also originally, we had a lot of conditions for the gesture to work, to try to get people to make a perfect gesture. And then we realized that it made the gesture too complicated, too difficult.

The genesis of the project comes from her experience filming Yazidi women from Iraq, also known as Sun Ladies, fighting on the front lines against the Islamic State. She practices martial arts and in her own research and work has found a correlation between self-defense and the empowerment of these women, especially in the context of healing from sexual assault. There was something empowering about physical activity, maintaining a safe space, and practicing boundary setting. Tricart began to wonder, “How can we rewire our brains to understand that we deserve to be here?” We deserve to hold our space, that we are physical beings, and we can say no. Although initially inspired by the healing journeys of Yazidi women, throughout our interview Tricart emphasized the importance and applicability of self-defense training for all genders and that anyone can cope. to gender-based violence.

Tricart often uses the language of visual metaphor, emphasizing real-world issues both foreground and background of his immersive work. In “Fight Back”, she creates a celestial universe full of stars and it’s only at the end that you learn that the stars represent various female historical figures who “fighted back”. → As a slight spoiler, the stars come to life as real historical figures and you learn their stories.

The vast universe filled with invisible stars is a poignant metaphor for women throughout history and today who struggle but lack recognition. “We are just highlighting the stories of these women. We have chosen five but there are thousands and thousands. She recounts how many attendees ended up in tears of happiness upon learning about these powerful historical women and seeing a glimmer of their own power.

People come out transformed not only by the story but also by the movements they have learned. They now walk a little differently, with a little more force, outside of the virtual world and in the real world. “Just having that moment where you punch and you have that *POW* and seeing how powerful you are. It’s deep.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.