We’ve often discussed, whether in our articles or during the podcast, how video games are shattering the conventions of the artistic world. Games like Journey, Beyond Eyes and Her Story are redefining interactive narrative and experimenting with gameplay to move us, the players, at our core or at least, question ourselves and how we perceive the world.
At the centre of this shift is Montreal’s Phi Centre who is embracing interactive works, including video games, and is making them an integral part of its programming. Interestingly enough, I made this amazing discovery at Osheaga. Within the VIP and Media area, they had set up a mobile version of their VR Garden. Festival attendees were invited to experience three audio visual artistic works with wildly different themes: Jurassic World, graffiti art and skateboarding. Each work had its own mood, setting and audio-visual experience. I must say it was quite surreal to be sitting in Parc Jean Drapeau in the hot summer weather, with the Festival going full blast in the background and being transported into an indoor skate park or an underground parking lot at the literal click of a button.
Enter The Not-So-Secret Garden
You might say I was quite privileged to have that experience as it required for me to not only have access to a sold out music festival but more specifically their VIP area. Yes, I was but here’s the kicker: the VR Garden is a permanent installation at the Phi Centre and admission for it is free. This is one of the most accessible VR experiences in this city and it will move you and/or make you think. At the very least, the novelty of the virtual reality experience will wow you. Works presented in the VR Garden rotate regularly so check the Phi Centre’s website to know which ones are currently showing.
Growing Past The Garden Walls
After I handed back my headset to the Phi Centre representative who was wearing a simple black T-shirt that said “Creative Fucker” in bold white letters (I need one of those), she invited me to grab a flyer promoting their current interactive exhibit called Embodied Narrative: Sensory Stories of the Digital Age. The Phi Centre’s website describes it as
An interactive exhibition to experience at the Phi Centre: 14 cutting-edge works that transport you on a sensory journey in which you are the hero.
More than just an exhibition in the digital age, Sensory Stories is an initiatory journey that engages the emotions and sensations, and encourages, with each artwork, an exploration of otherwise inaccessible realities. Visitors will experience each artwork through their gaze, their background and their emotions.
Included in those said 14 works are the award winning video game Her Story by Sam Barlow and the empathy driven VR experience Close Your by Goodbyeworld Games. Boom! Art.
Embodied Narrative runs until August 21st and regular admission is $15. I’ll definitely make time out of my busy schedule to experience this exhibit as well as the current works available in the VR Garden. If you want to do the same, check out the Phi Centre’s website.