Portland Museum of Art rents virtual reality experiences

Futuristic animation of a man's face lines, made up of blue and white dots on a black background

Still image from “I Saw the Future”, one of 10 immersive virtual reality pieces featured in VR to Go by PAM CUT

Courtesy of the Portland Museum of Art Center for Untold Tomorrow

Have you tried virtual reality before? If not, imagine this: You pull a large headset over your eyes, hold the controls in your hands, and soon your living room drops. You look around, and you are in a geodesic dome at the foot of the mountain. There is a fire burning in the fireplace. Visible from the outside: the aurora borealis, shooting stars in the night sky. From here, multiple paths lie ahead. Choose one, and you accompany a refugee leaving Afghanistan on his long journey by bus, boat and train; Passing landscapes, the sun rises and sets. Choose another, and you’re in space! Jessica Chastain guides you inside a black hole, and Patti Smith narrates the Big Bang before your eyes. Elsewhere, you and the pangolin are talking to you as they search for food and shade in the desert heat. Whichever you choose – and you can choose them all! – You are completely immersed, with the sights and sounds in every direction. The reality of your living room and your life are away for a while.

The Portland Museum of Art Center for Tomorrow Untold (PAM CUT) is now renting a virtual reality headset, preloaded with 10 curated immersive virtual reality pieces from around the world, to try out for a few days at home. The VR to go The program is a partnership with Pfi . Center In Montreal, the PAM CUT is the only program venue in the United States. With that said, the center hopes to increase access to this growing and evolving art form, and eventually open the doors to new creative work in virtual reality and 3D filmmaking here in the Northwest.

John Richardson is Associate Director of the Untold Tomorrow Center for Creative Programs. Recently joined OPB’s Jenn Chávez, another first-timer in virtual reality, to talk about VR To Go and some of her summer programming, which has been extended through October 31.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Animated stop motion scene of a black, white, and gray cityscape.  It's a city square surrounded by dark tall buildings against a cloudy sky, with signage written in Japanese.  A billboard with a picture of a man wearing a gas mask.

Still image from “The Sick Rose”, one of 10 immersive VR pieces featured in VR to Go by PAM CUT

Courtesy of the Portland Museum of Art Center for Untold Tomorrow

Jane Chavez: I am a movie fan and have been watching movies my whole life. But this last experience was my first time trying VR and it was nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced. Can you describe the feeling of people who have not done this before?

John Richardson: definitely. I would say that I am also somewhat of a novice when it comes to enjoying the VR experience as a viewer. I think one of the things that really sets VR viewing experiences apart from the traditional sense is that you are fully involved in it, from the moment you start to the moment you take off your headset. You don’t have a chance to fold the laundry, check your phone, or do anything else you might do while watching a movie at home. You don’t even think about these things. You are completely immersed in whatever experience is in front of you at that moment.

Chavez: This headset comes with 10 international VR pieces. They are coordinated by PAM CUT, and they are really diverse. We’re talking about things from stop-motion animation to photo-realism; From the Kalahari desert to Afghanistan to space. What is the theme that ties all these projects together?

Richardson: When these tracks were curated by a number of our employees here at PAM CUT, the idea was that it would capture images of the past, present, and future… Clark talks about Where he saw the future of the experience of space and timeBasically predicting what exactly is going on and what you’re seeing at that moment. It’s animated with very futuristic visuals, but this is a sound from the 60s. We also have “Kinoscope”, which talks about the history of cinema, as well as “The Dawn of Art”, and that’s another thing where you can kind of go back in time. But then when you see something like “blind fish“You really get to experience the past and the future. Because that piece — it’s a Canadian piece — is about a character who sees in her right eye the future, and in her left eye she sees the past. So he really takes that topic and explores it within the piece itself.”

Animation in the style of linocut, little girl standing in a room looking up three tall dark figures staring over her.

Still image from “Blind Vaysha”, one of 10 immersive VR pieces featured in VR to Go by PAM CUT

Courtesy of the Portland Museum of Art Center for Untold Tomorrow

Chavez: Do you have a favorite and what do you like about it?

Richardson: My personal favorite is the “Kinoscope”, but that’s because I work in the cinema and I think this guy spoke to me in person. But I’d say my favorite fan of people who come in to drop headphones is usually”fieldsAnd it’s three parts. This one has Jessica Chastain, Millie Bobby Brown, and Patti Smith, and Patti Smith is usually what people talk about the most.

Chavez: Yes, one of those, you are inside a black hole, then you become a black hole, and then you suck another black hole! It’s wild. So, I’m glad you brought up this topic.

Richardson: I love talking about this stuff, it’s so wild. It’s amazing what you can do in virtual reality that you can’t do with traditional cinematic storytelling. Because yes, you can show that on the screen, but if you look to your left or right, you’ll see walls or someone else. While here, you are only in it, you are part of it.

Animation of a black hole in space, with a circle of pink, white, and purple lines around it, with a bright, fiery pink line depicted across the frame.

Still image from “Spheres: Songs of Spacetime”, one of 10 immersive VR pieces featured in VR to Go by PAM CUT

Courtesy of the Portland Museum of Art Center for Untold Tomorrow

Chavez: This is a rentable experience. It’s a three day rental for these sets and these VR pieces. Do you think of this as an entry point into this type of art, as well as this technique, for people who wouldn’t normally have access to it?

Richardson: definitely. I would say that for the majority of people who have already rented VR headsets, this is the first time they have ever worn a headset in the first place. Which is really exciting, because there’s something about our programming or our marketing that someone called out, and they thought, “Wow, that’s a way for me to really see what’s going on and see what people are talking about.” When you go in and out a headset, there’s a member of Our team is here to walk you through the process, especially if you are a first time VR user, you need this guidance when putting on a headset. Someone to say, “So what you see in front of you is this, and the reason you do that with your consoles is because they know where the floor is.” You know, it’s really helpful to have that hand holding someone that was their first time using a piece of equipment like this.

Chavez: A few months ago, your organization, formerly called the Northwest Film Center, changed its name to Center for an Untold Tomorrow. How does virtual reality fit into your extended mission, and the idea of ​​an “Untold Tomorrow?”

Richardson: Well, I would say virtual reality is something that, even when it called us Northwest Film Center, was part of what we were doing. The VR to Go program began during that time, as the Northwest Film Center. But by not having the word “film” as part of our name, it gives us this opportunity to explore the latest technology. Maybe apart from virtual reality – things we may not have thought of yet, or maybe things that haven’t been invented yet. Virtual reality is one of those things that has been around for decades. You know, we remember movies like The Lawnmower Man, where he takes this virtual reality world, or there are TV shows maybe from the ’90s, where it’s all about virtual reality, but viewed in a geometrically plump way. And now we’re at a point where you can watch – like I said, you can become a black hole – and that’s a completely different experience. We want to make sure that we are open to all forms of cinematic storytelling, and truly celebrate those who are willing to push themselves and explore these new forms of creative expression.

Sunny day in the desert, with scaly anteater in the center display in the sand, and some spare bushes in the background.

Still image from “A Predicament of Pangolins”, one of 10 immersive VR pieces featured in VR to Go by PAM CUT

Courtesy of the Portland Museum of Art Center for Untold Tomorrow

Chavez: Does your organization have any future plans about expanding your VR offerings?

Richardson: Well, we’re definitely looking at what the future of VR To Go will look like. And if you are not upset pamcut.orgYou will see a lot of new things coming that include VR as part of the system. they were [also] You are officially going to organize a workshop on learning how to do VR and 360 movie making, so this will be featured on our website soon. It will truly be a part of our identity and all our offerings for a long time.

Chavez: Yes, it sounds like you are not exposing people to this art, but you are also likely to work with emerging artists in virtual or immersive reality. From this perspective, what do you hope to see in the future of cinematic storytelling through virtual reality?

Richardson: That’s a great question, and I guess that’s “unspeakable” of it, is that…man, who knows? Personally, I’m intrigued by what we can even do with audio storytelling and podcasting, and I think in the realm of virtual reality, there’s an opportunity to present podcasts in a whole new way as well. So, whether it’s documentary storytelling or whether it’s fiction, there are going to be a lot of ways virtual reality will help you tell your story in the traditional audio-only way, or make 2D movies, [is] It just wouldn’t make sense. I think there will be a lot of creative ways our storytellers will be able to engage audiences using these techniques.

Chavez: Any final words for people in our audience who might consider trying something like this?

Richardson: Well, I will say that among these 10 pieces that we have as part of VR To Go, there is something for everyone. I know there are some people who have seen the same picture over and over again. And there are some people who have tried them all. That’s the great thing about having it for a few days, you can take your time with it and you can do as it makes sense for you. It’s just so much fun, and we’re glad to be a part of it.

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