The Virtual Reality of New Frontier

By Nissa Alloy & Lauren Clarke-Bennett

New Frontier; an important combination of virtual reality and interactive film presentations, celebrated its 10th spectacular year at Sundance 2016 and is considered one of the Film Festival’s most cutting-edge projects. Its passionate initiative was created by Sundance Institute’s Labs and Residency programs to assist and platform independent artists working at the crossroads of film, technology, media, art, music and live performance. As usual Millennium Magazine was uber impressed by the leap in technology and creativity that engaged the spirit of innovation and the Festival’s strong commitment to building a supportive community for these projects.

Real Virtuality: Immersive Explorers was created by Sylvain Chagué, Caecilia Charbonnier; with key collaborators; Bart Kevelham, David Hodgetts. This incredible multiplayer experience made it virtually impossible to know where reality ended and fantasy began. With hand and foot sensors, a backpack, and headset a black empty room quickly becomes a fantastical landscape. Immediately you are immersed in a video game where you see your partner who has been transformed into a life-like animae (cartoon character). Your mission is to locate crystals and place them in a machine helping you time warp to the future. As one moves around, terror takes hold when you step off the edge of a boat while traveling through an under water city or you scream as you encounter giant spiders the size of your hands crawling the walls — “then given a torch to navigate underground tunnels and a rickety bridge to find the energy field that will take you home.” attests Riland, a Millennium participant, “It was so real the coolest game I ever played for sure.”

The Treachery of Sanctuary presented at the Festival Basecamp was created by artist Chris Milk and key collaborators Brian Chasalow, Aaron Meyers and James George.

A large-scale triptych, this personalized interactive tells the story of transformation from birth to death using projections of the participants’ own bodies turning them into ascending birds and unlocking a ‘new artistic language’.

The Leviathan Project by artists Alex McDowell, Bradley Newman and key collaborator, World Building Media Lab with castmembers Gildart Jackson, Isabella Schloss, Austin Nimnict, A.J. Helfet, Ellis Greer and Alex Hoone takes the participant to a scientific lab inside a huge flying whaleback in the year 1895. This shift in reality is based on Scott Westerfield’s best-selling novels; Leviathan and allows the time traveler to engage in an experiment that includes creating a brand-new creature.

Kiya by artist Nonny de la Peña and key collaborator the Emblematic Group along with castrates Lee Sherman, Toyin Moses, Tripp Pickell, Diana Toshiko brings to life through virtual reality a real life domestic violence homicide where two sisters engage in a drama to save their sibling from being shot by her baby-daddy. Using the 911 tape and animae imagery to recreate the shocking event, along with a VR headset transforms the participants from object viewer to an eye witness.

The Holo-Cinema by Artist ILMxLab created this new experiential theater that allowed participants to step into a Star Wars landscape complete with a R2D2 and 3CPO interaction. As the interactors move around a fully immersive media environment, they experience 4-D viewing as if walking through a real-life film set.

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