Highlights of Venice Immersive: Chinese Gods, Jim Henson Storybooks and Wallace & Gromit

Highlights of Venice Immersive: Chinese Gods, Jim Henson Storybooks and Wallace & Gromit

Venice Immersive, the Venice Film Festival’s showcase of the best in new virtual reality productions is an easy, one-minute vaporetto ride from the Lido.

The boatman calls the trip “a journey to Alcatraz” but the Old Lazaretto Island — in the 15th century a place of quarantine for those suffering, or suspected of suffering, from infectious diseases — rises majestically from the Lagoon. Stepping off the boat, you enter into another world, or better, worlds. The experimental universes and extended realities of VR.

Exposed brick walls, large halls, and white curtains divide up the art installations and VR technology on display. There’s a medieval, but also somewhat industrial, vibe that suits the video art on display, both containing it and providing an engaging visual contrast to the digital pixelation.

Related Stories

Venice Immersive is the Biennale’s bet on the future. Here at the Old Lazaretto, the future of film, of video games, of visual art, is being shaped. Alongside 360-degree cinema and visual experiences, there are immersive installations such as Sen, created by Keisuke Itoh, which hosts three people in a virtual Japanese Tea ceremony, and pop culture video games, like the delightful Wallace & Gromit in The Grand Getaway, in which the stop-motion characters created by the Aardman studio, with Peter Lord’s trademark claymation, embark on a new adventure of crazy puzzles and lots of British humor.

The undisputed star on the games side is the nostalgic, but fast-paced, 1978, by Ana Ribeiro and her Arvore Immersive Games. It’s a game about creating video games, with constant, and never casual, references to Atari’s pearls of arcade culture.

Then there is Chen Xiang VR, in which users experience an epic adventure as a Chinese goddess of the Underworld, and Aufwind, which tells, through a workstation reminiscent of an airplane cockpit, the untold story of Charlotte Möhring and Melli Beese, the first female pilots in 1910s Germany, pioneers in a male-dominated profession.

On the Venice Immersive tour, there is also a chance to read a book without actually reading it, with Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, The Seven Ravens AR adventure. Using special glasses and a book with hardback pages filled with QR codes, the animation comes to life, telling the story of a girl searching for her seven brothers, who were turned into ravens as children.

The possible future of social media is on display with VR Chat, an online video game that allows users to collectively explore virtual clubs and other environments.

Venice Immersive opened on Aug. 29 and runs through the closing ceremony of the 80th Biennale on Sept. 9.