Anything is possible in a virtual world. Fantastical worlds and realistically programmed environments can be explored without heeding physical limits. Catastrophes or war scenarios can be experienced simply by using a VR headset and a joystick without any danger to life or limb.
Wide range of experiences
The spectrum of experiences at VRHAM! underway in Hamburg’s Oberhafen district from June 7-15, 2019 ranges from 360° art and augmented art, virtual concerts and immersive dance theatre up to an interactive journey into the city of Fallujah, which was largely destroyed during the Iraq War and where concealed booby traps still threaten lives. The festival ends with keynote addresses, artist talks and discussion rounds.
VR ideal for art
“VRHAM! allows visitors to become acquainted with VR art from many different perspectives,” said curator Ulrich Schrauth. Certain experiences have been conceived to facilitate a communal experience. The art is always to the fore, rather than the technology. “VR is perfect for the arts,” he added. “That’s because art is always on the lookout for total immersion and seeks to draw the recipient into what is going on – whether in theatre, cinema or visual arts. The visitor becomes part of the artistic experience through VR.”
Hamburg News tests VR
But is the VR experience really so intense? Hamburg News tried it out. In Conscious Existence by Marc Zimmermann, the user dives into a kaleidoscope of colours and shapes that turns into various worlds to make for a utopian trip – across high mountain peaks, down into depths of the ocean and into a sea of flowers or a dense green forest. A feeling of security and ease is generated as a voice-off tells of beauty and harmony. The body reacts to the visual and acoustic stimuli. The documentary experience by Ricarda Saleh, Paris Terror. The Hostages of Hyper Cacher offers a totally different experience, which plunges the user into the middle of a hostage taking in a supermarket to meet the survivors. The boundaries of reporting in newspapers and television are as though lifted, once you find yourself sitting opposite a former hostage with the feeling that you only have to reach out to touch her.
VRHAM! – over 250 applications from 34 countries
As the VR experience can be really intense, Schrauth recommends a limit to three or four experiences per visit and a repeat visit when required. Nobody should have any fear of physical contact, he stressed. “We have designed the festival as an hospitable environment, where everyone is included with their individual level of experience in art and VR.” The hospitality aimed at by Schrauth extends to international artists as well. “We would like to offer a platform for their art and for networking to artists all over the world,” he pointed out. The concept is proving a success with more than 250 teams of artists from 34 countries among the applicants. A total of 12 experiences by artists from some 20 countries can currently be experienced at VRHAM!
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