The PHI Center presents five new virtual reality experiences this summer. The monumental work of Marco Brambilla, Heaven’s Gateis in the spotlight, as well as a fiction and three documentaries on issues ranging from schizophrenia to the loss of a language through a re-education camp in China.
Posted at 11:00 a.m.
Heaven’s Gate, by Marco Brambilla, is an exploration of Dante’s seven stages of purgatory. The Italian-born, Canadian-raised videographer uses images from pop culture and Hollywood movies to create lush baroque work that challenges the hyperactivity of the image-obsessed modern world and overconsumption.
In this immersive universe, the viewer levitates upwards in a circular space where thousands of images scroll by interacting with each other. We recognize scenes from several films in addition to seeing a photo of Donald Trump opposed to that of Abraham Lincoln. Heaven’s Gate is intended as a kind of distorting mirror of American culture. The effect is stunning.
“I wanted it that way,” summarizes Marco Brambilla in a telephone interview from Paris.
We live in a world where imagery envelops us every day and floods us with information. I wanted us to be able to experience a kind of ascension in chaos. It is contradictory because it becomes more and more chaotic, even if one feels more and more awake.
The videographer is currently working on the visual background of the opera The Magic Flute of Mozart who is going on a European tour. In 2020, he collaborated with Marina Abramovic on her opera The seven deaths of Maria Callas. His digital works have been exhibited all over the world for twenty years.
Heaven’s Gate refers to the film of the same name by Michael Cimino which caused the bankruptcy of the United Artists studio in 1980. Virtual reality thrives on Hollywood films and pop culture colliding.
“Pop culture has cannibalized everything, it is insatiable. This is what we see on the internet and social networks, as if people always want more photos and images. It’s almost infinite. The last stage of purgatory is called The apocalypse, a space where you can feel euphoria and disaster at the same time. »
From this creation emerge waves of satire and celebration of a seductive world, certainly, although deleterious. Marco Brambilla knows Hollywood well. He made two feature films there — Demolition Man and Excess Baggage — before devoting himself solely to video in 1999.
“The images in today’s films are almost interchangeable with each other. There is a feeling of emptiness. It’s an ongoing spectacle with all these sequels and superhero movies. We evacuated the emotions to attack only the visceral”, he says.
I put together disparate imagery to create a sort of stream of consciousness. We have to ask ourselves whether the world is better off with this hyperconsumption of images that flood us.
The public will benefit from watching and re-watching the virtual reality, lasting just over five minutes, which continues in another room with the projection of a video triptych allowing them to absorb all the subtleties of this work. of a rare pictorial density.
Horizons VR (Virtual Reality)
In an adjacent space, the PHI Center also presents four other virtual reality experiences carried out in 2021. They are arranged in as many rooms with breathtaking scenography.
Goliath: Playing With Reality is an edifying documentary that recounts the difficult life of a schizophrenic and his return to society after years in an institution. The immersive and interactive experience narrated by actress Tilda Swinton allows the viewer to go inside the man’s head and see him rehabilitate himself through online video games and meeting new friends just as gamers than him.
Reeducated, conversely, features the testimonies of three Uyghurs who suffered traumatic experiences together in a Chinese re-education camp. This very informative animated documentary describes the inhuman conditions of the re-educated, closer to life in prison than that of a resort. These men are still living with the consequences of their imprisonment, we see at the end.
Kusunda gives voice to a Nepali shaman who has forgotten his indigenous mother tongue, Kusunda, which is unrelated to any other in the world. The old man relearns it little by little with the help of his granddaughter. This courageous young woman has chosen to dedicate her life to reviving this endangered language and culture.
Marco & Polo Go Round is the only work of fiction presented this year. This is the first virtual reality production from the Quebec house Item 7. This immersive animation takes place in the kitchen of a couple, with the voices of Emmanuel Schwartz and Léane Labrèche-Dor, whose world literally capsizes under our eyes. The images borrow a surreal and amusing style.
The Marco Brambilla and Horizons VR exhibitions are presented at the PHI Center until October 24, 2022.