Actually Submersive (Not Totally Immersive)

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Featuring in Vicki Dobbs Beck’s opening plenary at last year’s MuseWeb conference in Vancouver, "Carne y Arena" exemplifies the visual and narrative potential of virtual reality (VR). However, the associated challenges for presenting VR artworks as part of immersive location-based experiences in museums and galleries remains relatively uncharted territory. Inspired and informed in equal measure by my first-hand viewing encounter with filmmaker Alejandro Iñárritu's celebrated "Carne y Arena" at Fondazione Prada in Milan, this paper will explore what this exemplary artwork succeeds in telling us about the respective ways that VR and museums function as "extra-dimensional" spaces in which cultural experiences are embedded. In order to pursue this line of inquiry, it is crucial to recognize a deceptively obvious fact: that the viewing experience of virtual images actually takes place in real space. As such, the museum functions as its determinate social space, while the curatorial design of the exhibition at large provides a distinctive museological "framing" for the film. This paper seeks to develop more critically upon a tacit observation gleaned from Beck’s plenary speech: that the sense of immersion one experiences with "Carne y Arena" is achieved by dramatization as much as through digitization. Therefore, I will put forward the proposition that it is, actually, the successful calibration of the viewing experience associated with VR cinema and curatorial design – responsible for activating the theatrical, performative, scenographic and choreographic aspects of the exhibition experience—that underpins the "realization" of Iñárritu's creative vision; resulting in what might more effectively be described as a submersive, not (totally) immersive experience.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMuseWeb 2019: Selected Papers and Proceedings from an International Conference
EditorsNancy Proctor, Rich Cherry
Place of PublicationSilver Spring MD USA
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9780998847412
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventMuseWeb 2019 - Sheraton Boston, Boston, United States of America
Duration: 2 Apr 20196 Apr 2019


ConferenceMuseWeb 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States of America
Internet address

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