Formerly known as the Tribeca Film Festival—though revised before last year’s playful 20th anniversary rebrand to reflect the fact that it includes talks, games, immersive content, TV, cinema and more—the illustrious Tribeca Festival will welcome guests 8-19 June this year. Its arrival causes much to be excited about including free outdoor screenings at Brookfield Place, thoughtful Juneteenth programming and, our annual favorite, the Tribeca Immerisve division of augmented, mixed and virtual reality work. This year, 21 projects open to the public—some of which are making their world premiere at the festival.
This year, Tribeca Immersive can be experienced in person at the festival and at home through a VR headset. Both means of participating offer access to the extraordinary. “Our team and invited creators produced a massive gallery showcase at Spring Studios that’s designed as a collection of mini-embassies of different virtual worlds and interactive stories,” Ana Brzezińska, Immersive Curator at the 2022 Tribeca Festival, tells COOL HUNTING. “We also present digital artworks in two other locations in Manhattan, at 120 Broadway and Pier 25.”
“Additionally,” Brzezińska continues, “we decided to design a custom virtual world created by Dani Bittman and the Museum of Other Realities that holds about a dozen experiences from the official selection. The Tribeca World itself is a treat: it’s a playful virtual garden that reflects four thematic pillars of this year’s curation. It’s not only a beautiful social space, but also a digital sibling of the physical exhibition in NYC.”
Brzezińska’s curatorial vision encompasses future-forward storytelling and technology and so much more. Each piece works in dialogue with the next. “I started the process of selection by looking at what different immersive and digital creators have been working on in the two-three past years,” Brzezińska says. “Before making the final decision I wanted to understand their goals, intentions and key points of interest. That is how the concept of a themed curation was born for Nature; Society/Identity; Art & Memory; Tomorrow.”
This year’s Tribeca Immersive exhibition is a story of belonging and a restored sense of agency in face of loss, grief and constant threat
“Above all I wanted to follow the voice of the creative community and to try to tell a meta story, to capture the zeitgeist of this particular moment in time,” Brzezińska continues. “I wasn’t interested in a random selection of best experiences created in 2022; not at the cost of the overall message. It’s not an approach we often see in the festival space but it’s something that is part of my background in theater and art history. I also believe that this is the best way to bring more people to the immersive space. For me, this year’s Tribeca Immersive exhibition is a story of belonging and a restored sense of agency in face of loss, grief and constant threat.”
This year’s programming has been grouped into three categories: Main Competition, New Voices and Best of Season. “There are two reasons behind this decision: first is to acknowledge the maturity and diversity of the XR industry and to celebrate a new generation of emerging artists,” Brzezińska says. “Second is to emphasize the need of continuous evangelization and popularization of immersive storytelling: certain experiences that premiered in 2021 still deserve the attention of our audience members who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to explore them.”
“Our industry has grown a lot in the past decade in terms of talent and storytelling knowledge but we still haven’t developed proper distribution channels,” Brzezińska concludes. “Festivals remain a key player in the process of immersive content distribution, which is both a responsibility and a challenge.” Among the 21 options, all bring something of value to the viewer. The following three, however, stand out for their inherent power and their ability to move a participant.
Created by art collective Marshmallow Laser Feast, along with Terrence Malick and Edward R Pressman, narrated by Cate Blanchett and featuring music by Jonny Greenwood, Evolver makes its world premiere in the Main Competition this year. Housed only at 120 Broadway, this 24-minute collective VR experience places participants in a mesmerizing representation of the human body and allows them to follow the flow of oxygen—and life—all the way to a cellular level. It’s a stunning work of exquisite educational power.
LGBTQ+ VR Museum
A 20-minute VR experience that’s accessible at home or in person at a brand new biometric installation supported by Unity for Humanity, the thoughtful LGBTQ+ VR Museum makes its North American premiere in the New Voices category this year. The world pairs touching stories told by queer individuals with 3D scans of their meaningful items—all to preserve personal LGBTQ+ histories which are so often lost. Antonia Forster and Thomas Terkildsen created the empowering project, which is produced by Albert Millis.
Accessible at home or in person, Exhibition A celebrates women of color through 360-degree social and interactive virtual reality storytelling, where participants appear as playful avatars and performances unfold. Recording artist JanaeSound and her educational non-profit, Coded by Young Women of Color, collaborated with Nick Hall of Yarn Co to bring this spectacular experience to life.
Tickets for the 2022 Tribeca Immersive segment of the Tribeca Festival can be purchased online now.
Hero images courtesy of the LGBTQ+ VR Museum