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Line of Contact by Dani Ploeger
Line of Contact by Dani Ploeger

20 projects from 17 countries will be showcased in the 3rd edition of LFF Expanded, the BFI London Film Festival’s Immersive Art and Extended Realities strand. This year’s program showcases a rich selection of works from creators working at the forefront of emerging technologies, including interactive virtual reality, screen-based installations, augmented reality, mixed reality, immersive audio experience and live performance.

Guy Maddin, Filmmaker, said: “I’ve long told myself that collage-making is good for keeping my eye sharp for film shoots. After all, the snipper and gluer of papery things arranges those things in a frame, just like a director – pure mise-en-scène! But making collages in Augmented Reality truly is a brain-breaker, another experience completely, with its multiple layers of interest aspiring to draw the viewer ever inward, free-floating non-sequiturs that suggest causal connections and conceal vile secrets, the whole creating an atmosphere thick with uninhibited urges – lustful, homicidal, stupid! In short, collage-making in AR simply is filmmaking, and I’m so delighted to have worked with the BFI London Film Festival to bring this new work to life.”

LFF EXPANDED 2022 IMMERSIVE ART AND XR PROGRAMME:

ALL UNSAVED PROGRESS WILL BE LOST – INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE
2022, France, Lead artist: Mélanie Courtinat

Acclaimed French visual artist Mélanie Courtinat’s striking work deals with the terrifying events that have led to the evacuation of a whole town in an undisclosed country. The narrator – virtually present through the narration of her poem within the experience – tells her own story of loss and abandonment, set against the backdrop of a gradually changing landscape whose abstract visual references keep the territory anonymous. An urgent and unidentified threat permeates the experience, allowing the viewer to meditate on and project their own fears through the work.
Presentation location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: 10 minutes

APPARATUS LUDENS – INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE
2022, UK-Sweden, Lead Artist: Untold Garden

This groundbreaking digital adventure from Max Čelar and Jakob Skote, the team behind Untold Garden, invites visitors to enter into a conversation with an artificial intelligence. By harvesting the vast amount of data we leave online, the anonymous interlocutor gradually unfolds a virtual landscape on the screen before us. By asking seemingly random questions, the project uses the latest technical developments (such as text-to-image creation and text-to-voice generation) to craft a unique and lyrical personal narrative. Čelar and Skote’s work raises questions about who owns individual virtual footprints and how we want to be perceived by an ever-changing labyrinth of personal data.
Presentation location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: 15 minutes

A MIGHTY MASS EMERGES – UK PREMIERE
2022, Switzerland-France-Italy, Lead Artist: Wu Tsang

Following on from her acclaimed Moby Dick series, filmmaker and artist Wu Tsang delivers her first VR work, journeying into the depths of our oceans. As part of Venice Biennale 2022, Tsang presented the generative digital art installation Of Whales, which engages with the themes and narrative of Herman Melville’s seafaring classic. Her follow-up work, the artist’s first VR experience, invites audiences to observe the vast wonders of the marine world, all from the perspective of a whale. Becoming part of an environment, rather than a detached outsider, A Mighty Mass Emerges asks us to engage in new ways with an expanse that makes up the majority of our planet’s surface.
Presentation location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: 13 minutes

AS MINE EXACTLY
2022, UK, Lead Artist: Charlie Shackleton

In this Virtual Reality live performance, Charlie Shackleton (Beyond Clueless, The Afterlight) takes audiences on a journey into his late childhood and the upsetting events that defined it. Blending Virtual Reality and performance film, documentary filmmaker Charlie Shackleton literally invents a new film genre in the way he shares this deeply personal story with one visitor at a time. He uses fragments of original footage and pictures from his youth to revisit events that shaped his young teenage life – centering on the medical condition of his mother – streaming them live into a VR Headset to immerse the viewer fully into the story. Shackleton narrates the story live, even ‘conversing’ with his mother, who is present as a voice through a speaker in the room. The result is a thrilling creative journey that exists between conventional filmmaking and virtual live performance.
Presentation location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: 30 minutes

THE CHOICE – UK PREMIERE
2021, Canada-Poland, Lead Artist: Joanne Popinska

A powerful and provocative VR documentary, focusing on questionable decisions and lawmaking around reproductive rights and abortion in the US, based on a true story. The ongoing debate surrounding the controversial response to Roe vs Wade by the US Supreme Court earlier this year reveals a country deeply divided over the abortion debate. In this extraordinary VR-documentary, Kristen, a young First Nation woman from Texas, discusses her pregnancy and the painful process she underwent due to provocative legislation, the severe danger to her health notwithstanding. The Choice intelligently employs documentary techniques with cutting-edge digital animation to convey Kristen’s troubling story and to engage with the wider debate regarding women’s rights.
Presentation location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: 25 minutes

BLACK MOVEMENT LIBRARY – MOVEMENT PORTRAITS – INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE
2022, USA, Lead Artist: LaJuné McMillian

The Black Movement Library is a repository for activists, performers and artists to create diverse XR projects, as well as a space to research how and why we move, and an archive of Black existence. What happens when we ritualise the archival process of data collection and invite the community as a witness? This is the question LaJuné McMillan, a young Black creator from New York, has explored in her first fully developed XR project. She embedded interviews with five performers into immersive environments that feature richly textured soundscapes, through which the artists move in their own style. It enables audience to explore the artists’ respective practices and to see how Black movement has been used as a tool for the preservation of Black culture, as well as a vehicle of self-development.
Presentation location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: 22 minutes

DIGITAL MOTIONS
2022, Germany, Lead Artists: Helge Letonja, Marcel Karnapke, Björn Lengers, Anke Euler

German artist collective Cyberräuber invites audiences to shape and transform a virtual space through dance and movement. This collaboration between German artist collective Cyberräuber and the visionary dance ensemble Of Curios Nature has led to an exciting interrogation of the connection between the body, virtual space and interactive design. Digital Motions invites the audience to playfully interact with the virtual dancers – perceived as avatars – and their movement across various scenes. Each visitor creates his or her own experience in virtual reality, defining the boundaries between viewer and dancing avatar. The VR world, with its potentially unlimited technology, enables the formation of new perspectives on space, body and movement, and conveys to audiences how dancers and performers perceive them.
Presentation location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: 8-25 mins

FRAMERATE: PULSE OF EARTH
2022, UK, Lead Artists: Matthew Shaw, William Trossell, ScanLAB Projects

London-based studio ScanLab’s poetic screen-based installation, derived from thousands of 3D-Scans of British landscapes, reveals a country in flux. ScanLab projects (Adult Children and Eternal Return, LFF 2021) have built their reputation through digitally replicating our world – real-life objects, landscapes and events seen through the perspective of 3D-scanning. Framerate – Pulse of Earth invites audiences to bear witness to a changing environment caused by the friction between human-centred industry and the immense forces of nature. Destruction, extraction, habitation, construction, harvests, growth and erosion are presented as a shared immersive experience. Created from thousands of daily 3D time-lapse scans of British landscapes, the work observes change on a scale impossible to see with traditional filmmaking techniques. Stories are brought to life across a series of screens, accompanied by the captivating sound design of Pascal Wyse.
Presentation location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: 24 minutes

HAUNTED HOTEL – A MELODRAMA IN AUGMENTED REALITY – WORLD PREMIERE
2022, Germany, Lead Artist: Guy Maddin

A hauntingly immersive exhibition by acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin that ruminates on the manifold permutations of desire, deception and death. Unravelling across eight three-dimensional collages and true to his avant-garde style, Guy Maddin delicately enfolds his audience in surreal paper worlds and in the process exploring the hidden layers that comprise human nature. Embracing an eclectic selection of clippings from his personal archive, the director of My Winnipeg and The Saddest Music in the World includes familiar pop-culture figures alongside ecstatic 1960s nudists and frightened film noir characters. Find out what’s stirring behind closed doors via virtual peep holes and leaf through rooms filled with longing, hysteria and madness, all set to an intricate soundscape by acclaimed composer Magnus Fiennes.
Presentation Location: BFI Southbank / Duration: 20 minutes

THE INFINITE LIBRARY – INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE
2022, India-Germany-Czech Republic, Lead Artist: Mika Johnson

Commissioned by the Goethe Institute, The Infinite Library is a traveling installation that imagines the future of libraries as interactive spaces, engaging visitors through multi-sensory forms of storytelling. It seeks to embed human stories within a grander narrative, one that includes the birth of our planet and the evolution of all life forms. The ‘Library’ element of the installation is conceived as a living organism – an embodiment of knowledge that introduces itself to visitors personally, before inviting them to explore its environs and wealth of information. The installation includes a QR code game, holograms, 3D-printed models in jars and the overall project’s central work: a vast VR library located in a cave.
Presentation Location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: 25 minutes

IN PURSUIT OF REPETITIVE BEATS
2022, UK, Lead Artist: Darren Emerson

Award-winning filmmaker Darren Emerson’s project invites audiences to search for an illegal rave, over one night in Coventry in 1989. From poster-strewn bedrooms and pirate-radio stations to a police headquarters and empty warehouse events, you take the place of rave-culture pioneers as you go in search of a party. Combining Acid House tracks with interactivity and multi-sensory simulation, In Pursuit of Repetitive Beats brings to life the stories of the ravers, promoters and police officers, whose rivalries and relationships drove a revolution in music and society. The development of this project was supported by the National Theatre’s Immersive Storytelling Studio.
Presentation location: The Wolfson Gallery, the National Theatre / Duration: 35 minutes

INTRAVENE – WORLD PREMIERE
2022, UK-Canada, Lead Artists: Darkfield, Crackdown, Brenda Longfellow

Intravene is an immersive audio experience using binaural 360-degree sound to plunge listeners into the heart of the overdose crisis in Vancouver. It is a ground-breaking partnership of immersive and documentary experts with a drug user activist: DARKFIELD, Crackdown and Brenda Longfellow. The voices within Intravene are taken from interviews by Crackdown with those directly affected by the crisis. The project amplifies the voices of drug users, narrating the story of the Vancouver drug crisis from the perspective of those most severely impacted by it: users and frontline workers. After its audio-only premiere at Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, DARKFIELD present the world-premiere of the fully immersive version, set in a shipping container on Theatre Square, in front of the National Theatre.
Presentation location: Theatre Square, National Theatre / Duration: 30 minutes

THE LAST TIME I SAW SNOW
2022, UK, Lead Artists: Isobel Mascarenhas-Whitman, Alex Tennyson

In this mixed reality installation, digital projections and augmented reality join forces to convey a powerful story of human destruction and global climate change. Employing AI, augmented reality, projection mapping and a bespoke software system that trigger practical effects within a given space, The Last Time I Saw Snow allows the audience to become explorers, wandering a depopulated future. This mind-bending installation by London-based artists Isobel Mascarenhas-Whitman and Alex Tennyson creates a dystopian future, where destabilized climate conditions have led to uncontrollable sea levels, driving humanity to the fringes of an ecosystem they had previously sought to control. This cutting-edge digital installation plays with our perception of the world and invites us to revisit our thoughts and beliefs about our immediate future.
Presentation location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: 15 minutes

LINE OF CONTACT – INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE
2022, Netherlands-UK-Ukraine, Lead Artist: Dani Ploeger

Visual artist Dani Ploeger takes us virtually to the frontline of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict to highlight our alarmingly vague perception of war and armed confrontations. Over the last eight years, the work of Dutch artist and activist Dani Ploeger has been pre-occupied with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In the early days of fighting, he travelled to Mariupol, accompanying a group of Ukrainian soldiers and recording the seemingly endless waiting they had to endure. This footage has now been transformed into a powerful VR experience, presented on a custom-made headset. The device tracks the visitors’ eye movement, triggering an accompanying soundscape, resulting in a thought-provoking confrontation with the perfidious methodology of war.
Presentation location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: Continuous loop

MONOLITHS
2022, UK, Lead Artists: Lucy Hammond, Hannah Davies, Asma Elbadawi, Carmen Marcus

An insightful exploration of three very different personal stories from women living in the north, filmmaker and producer Lucy Hammond embellishes upon them through footage shot in the region. Central to it are three monoliths – standing stones, whose symbolic power becomes increasingly important as the women talk. Moreover, the narratives and the landscapes – where the women grew up – become inseparable as Hammond’s work progresses. The artist produces images of striking beauty, which only adds to the emotional power of the piece – a rumination on how landscapes can be radical spaces for expression and reflection.
Presentation location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: 11 minutes

MISSING PICTURES EP. 3: CATHERINE HARDWICKE: THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG
2022, France-UK-Taiwan-Luxembourg-South Korea, Lead Artists: Clément Deneux

This is the third of five VR documentaries, directed by Clement Deneux, focusing on an acclaimed and singular filmmaker and the project that got away from them. Following on from the presentation of episode one, featuring Abel Ferrara, at LFF 2020, and episode two, with Tsai Ming-Liang, at LFF 2021, this latest episode focuses on Catherine Hardwicke, director of Thirteen and Twilight. Following the success of Twilight in 2008, the filmmaker attempted to adapt Edward Abbey’s cult 1970’s environmental activist thriller The Monkey Wrench Gang. In this immersive film, Hardwicke revisits this personal project, which studios were eventually too reluctant to support. In her discussion, she highlights the challenge women have faced as filmmakers in Hollywood and the challenges that still lie ahead, while outlining what her dream film would have looked like.
Presentation location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: 11 minutes

ON THE MORNING YOU WAKE (TO THE END OF THE WORLD)
2022, UK-France-USA, Lead Artists: Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, Mike Brett, Steve Jamison, Arnaud Colinart, Pierre Zandrowicz

Based on a true story, this immersive documentary details how the occupants of Hawai’i faced the devastating reality of an imminent nuclear attack. This powerful, award-winning VR experience, produced by Archers Mark (Mike Brett and Steve Jamison), combines unsettling witness testimonials and texts by world-renown Hawaiian poet Jamaica H. Osorio to explore the shadow of the nuclear threat and terrors of war in an increasingly instable political world.
Presentation location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: 38 minutes

PAN + TILT – WORLD PREMIERE
2022, UK, Lead Artists Ruth Gibson, Bruno Martelli

Choreographer Ruth Gibson and VR artist Bruno Martelli have joined forces with composer Nic Nell to invent a holographic universe, inspired by the extraordinary legacy of Joan Skinner (1924-2021), an American choreographer, teacher and former dancer with the Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham companies. In this exciting world-premiere, Gibson/Martelli (Dazzle: Solo, LFF 2020) create an experience for two visitors at a time, placing them into a visual landscape that triggers imagination and exploration through motion, by means of Motion Capture technique and Machine Learning processes. The experience is unique to each participant, as panoramic gaze transforms into somatic sensation.
Presentation Location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: 25 minutes

PLANET CITY
2022, USA-China, Lead Artists: Liam Young, Kayvan Boudai, Eilliot Ordower, James Clar

A VR experience set in an imaginary city of 10 billion people, encompassing the entire population of the planet, where every culture co-exists in peace. Architect and filmmaker Liam Young has stirred international conversations with his recent book Planet City. It imagines a vast metropolis hosting the world’s population, allowing the rest of the planet to grow wild and untethered to mankind’s meddling. Young’s multi-disciplinary project plays out here as an immersive VR experience. By confronting the environmental crisis facing us, Young conveys a story of a generation taking back a future that has been stolen from them and presents a hopeful vision of it. Supported by The Barbican Centre, London.
Presentation location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: 7 minutes

WALZER – INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE
2021, Netherlands, Lead Artists: Frieda Gustavs, Leo Erken

Composer and performance artist Frieda Gustavs collaborates with visual artist and photography collector Leo Erken on this thought-provoking VR experience. A complex, three-dimensional virtual collage is created out of thousands of old photographs gleaned from private collections, online marketplaces and flea markets. It serves as a backdrop for non-linear narratives encompassing women’s rights and the first wave of feminism in Western Europe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As this collection was amassed, personal histories emerged that, in the resulting work, allow participants to create their own journeys, drawing on characters and events from this era. Opening in a thick fog, a sole balloon begins the journey, which features an original score by Gustavs – the waltz of the project’s title.
Presentation location: 26 Leake Street / Duration: 10 minutes

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