All-new VR experiences premiering at ACMI

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Media release

ACMI (the Australian Centre for the Moving Image) is excited to announce the premiere of our newest VR (virtual reality) commission Prehistoric VR by one of Australia’s most innovative performing arts companies Erth Visual & Physical Inc, which will open to the public on Saturday 23 September, alongside the opening of a new permanent space for VR experiences, the VR Lounge, in time for the school holidays.

Commissioned by ACMI, and developed with assistance from Create NSW in partnership with AFTRS (the Australia Film Television & Radio School), Handmaid Media and Start VR, Prehistoric VR is a collaboration between internationally renowned makers of large-scale puppetry experiences Erth and award-winning visual artist and filmmaker Samantha Lang.

Additionally, ACMI is thrilled to announce the opening of a dedicated VR Lounge located inside our free and permanent exhibition, Screen Worlds. The VR Lounge will exhibit a rotating selection of VR works beginning with The Turning Forest, a mystical fairy tale full of sound and colour created by leading Melbourne-based VR company VRTOV, who are also resident at ACMI’s co-working space ACMI X.  

“As the national museum for film, TV, games digital culture and art, ACMI is fascinated by the rapid evolution of VR and the new ways practitioners are engaging audiences through this platform. Alongside our vibrant commissioning program, the VR Lounge is the latest addition to our free, permanent exhibition, Screen Worlds. We are delighted that the first showcased work is the beautiful The Turning Forest, created by VRTOV in collaboration with BBC Research and Development. It is a stunning work which will delight people young and old,” said ACMI Director and CEO, Katrina Sedgwick.  

“ACMI is committed to enabling cross-disciplinary collaboration. Prehistoric VR is the debut VR work from Erth Visual & Physical Inc. and filmmaker Samantha Lang, and the third ACMI commission that has invited established artists in the performing arts to bring a live stage work into a ‘real’ 360-degree immersive VR experience. Erth are global leaders in the world of puppetry and their latest work will immerse young audiences in the breathtakingly beautiful world of the prehistoric deep sea.”

Adapted from Erth’s large-scale puppet show Erth’s Prehistoric Aquarium, Prehistoric VR is the first 360-degree VR puppetry experience of its kind. The work drops viewers onto the ocean floor 200 million years ago, for an immersive encounter with the strange, wonderful and terrifying creatures of the prehistoric deep. The viewer will be met by prehistoric marine creatures including bioluminescent jellyfish, Anglerfish, Anomalocaris, Paracyclotosaurus, Dickinsonia, Plesiosaurus and Kronosaurus – all creatures that have a connection to Australia’s prehistoric past. Throughout the work the viewer remains the centre of the action, surrounded by creatures that swim about and investigate them. Designed for ages 7 and up, Prehistoric VR is a stunning deep sea adventure that everyone will enjoy. 

ACMI has proven itself an astute commissioner of works that transform live performance into VR experiences. ACMI commissions have allowed leading performing arts practitioners to engage in cross-disciplinary collaborations with filmmakers. In 2016, ACMI co-commissioned and premiered VR experiences of Sandpit’s play Ghost, Toast and the Things Unsaid with Google Creative Lab and Grumpy Sailor, and Stuck in the Middle With You, an immersive dance experience by renowned choreographer Gideon Obarzanek and award-winning filmmaker Matthew Bate.

In May 2017, ACMI announced Dr Christian Thompson as the recipient of the inaugural $80,000 Mordant Family VR Commission for his proposed work Bayi Gardiya (Singing Desert). The commission, created in partnership with Catriona and Simon Mordant AM, the City of Melbourne and ACMI, builds on ACMI’s existing commissioning initiatives and will allow Thompsons’ practice to extend into the exciting medium of VR for the first time. Thompsons’ bold and ambitious VR work will invite audiences to walk through the landscape of his childhood, where they will witness a simple yet profound aesthetic gesture of the artist singing in his traditional Bidjara language, a language that has been recognised as extinct.

Prehistoric VR is a free exhibit, held at ACMI Saturday 23 September to Sunday 8 October. More at acmi.net.au/prehistoric-vr

Experience Prehistoric VR