September 27, 2023



Notable Features at Venice Immersive: Chinese Deities, Jim Henson’s Storybooks, and Wallace & Gromit

Notable Features at Venice Immersive: Chinese Deities, Jim Henson’s Storybooks, and Wallace & Gromit

The Venice Film Festival’s presentation of cutting-edge virtual reality productions is just a short vaporetto ride away from the Lido.

Venice Immersive, the showcase of the finest new virtual reality productions at the Venice Film Festival, is conveniently just a one-minute vaporetto ride from the Lido.

The boat ride is humorously referred to as a “journey to Alcatraz,” but it leads to Old Lazaretto Island, which in the 15th century served as a quarantine location for those afflicted or suspected of having infectious diseases. This island rises gracefully from the Lagoon. Upon disembarking from the boat, you step into another realm, or rather, multiple realms – the experimental universes and expanded realities of virtual reality.

Inside, you’ll find exposed brick walls, spacious chambers, and white curtains that partition the art installations and VR technologies on exhibit. There’s a medieval yet somewhat industrial atmosphere that complements the video art on display, both containing it and offering a captivating visual contrast to the digital world.

Venice Immersive represents the Biennale’s forward-looking vision. Here, at the Old Lazaretto, the future of cinema, video games, and visual art is being molded. In addition to 360-degree cinema and visual experiences, you’ll encounter immersive installations like “Sen” by Keisuke Itoh, which immerses three people in a virtual Japanese Tea ceremony. There are also pop culture video games such as the charming “Wallace & Gromit in The Grand Getaway,” where Aardman studio’s iconic stop-motion characters, brought to life with Peter Lord’s distinctive claymation, embark on a new adventure filled with wacky puzzles and British humor.

Among the standout games is “1978” by Ana Ribeiro and her Arvore Immersive Games. It’s a fast-paced, nostalgic game about creating video games, filled with deliberate nods to Atari’s classic arcade culture.

There’s also “Chen Xiang VR,” offering users an epic adventure as a Chinese goddess of the Underworld, and “Aufwind,” which recounts the untold story of Charlotte Möhring and Melli Beese, the first female pilots in 1910s Germany, breaking barriers in a male-dominated profession through a workstation reminiscent of an airplane cockpit.

During the Venice Immersive tour, there’s an opportunity to read a book without actually reading it. With “Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, The Seven Ravens AR adventure,” special glasses and a book filled with QR codes on its hardback pages bring the animation to life, narrating the tale of a girl on a quest to find her seven brothers, who were transformed into ravens during childhood.

VR Chat, an online video game enabling users to collectively navigate virtual clubs and other environments, offers a glimpse into the potential future of social media.

Venice Immersive commenced on August 29 and will continue until the closing ceremony of the 80th Biennale on September 9.

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Ralph Calaway