IMMERSIVE ENCOUNTERS EXHIBITION

Written by Freddie Johnson for Encounters Film Festival

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In a few quiet rooms at Colston Hall, a handful of artists, filmmakers, engineers and musicians are prodding storytelling’s boundaries. NT’s Fox stands out as the most traditional, and engaging, experience. Two screens face each other showing almost, but not quite, the same images of a Black boy walking anonymously through London. Sitting between the images and enveloped in an excellent score, the experience gives the feeling of moving through concrete streets at night-time with Biffa bins and broken glass for company, a presence just over your shoulder. Glancing guiltily to check what I’m missing behind me; I wonder if I am complicit in this boy’s marginalisation. Urban foxes don’t prowl the streets, they amble with nowhere in particular to go.

Upstairs, Graeme Crowley’s installation Britain, Take a Bow plays spontaneously generated films of post-Referendum Britain at the push of a big red button. Once seen, they’re forever gone. Images, stylised text and music – a remixed national anthem and fragments of speeches by Theresa May – are arranged uniquely at every press. While a product of austerity Britain, it is reminiscent of Banksy’s late noughties sarcasm.

Next door is a showcase of impressive VR tech presented by friendly student artists. Standing in a literally infinite space, where you can make yourself as big as an elephant or as small as a squirrel and paint with every computer-generated colour under the sun, is a bizarre and fascinating experience. It is easy to see the potential of the medium; the enthusiasm of the tech’s proponents is obvious, but the final direction of travel remains uncertain. Surely, this is more than an extension of the immersion arms race in video games and, now it is in the hands of artists and storytellers, I look forward to seeing the results.