'1923: Past Futures' – an interactive project exhibited at the Triennale Milano

VIVE Arts partners with the Triennale Milano to create an interactive experience that transports viewers to important moments in the Triennale’s long history.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Nov 06, 2022

VIVE Arts harnesses cutting-edge technology in order to create interactive experiences that redefine how we engage with art. Recently, they partnered with the Triennale Milano to create its first virtual reality (VR) exploration titled 1923: Past Futures at the 23rd International Exhibition, Unknown Unknowns: An Introduction to Mysteries, taking place until December 11, 2022 in Milan. 1923: Past Futures is a journey through the decades, which traces the Fondazione La Triennale di Milano's work since 1923. The experience is non-linear, and features several pivotal moments in time, throughout its long history from 1923. It also features several important chapters in a non-linear narrative that promises to engage audiences interactively, transporting them to a space of history and heritage. The larger exhibition, Unknown Unknowns, includes a wide assortment of installations and other projects, featuring over 400 artists, designers and architects from more than 40 countries. This exhibition has been curated by Ersilia Vaudo, and explores ideas of the unknown in order to excavate both, our outer world and inner realms.

1923 Past Futures VR Stills #2, 2022, image, variable dimensions, Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts|STIRworld
1923 Past Futures VR Stills #2, 2022, image, variable dimensions, Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts Image: Courtesy of Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts

The project is developed by Reframe Productions, whose Creative Art Director, Matteo Lonardi, discusses the organisation, telling STIR, “Reframe Productions is an XR creative studio based in Milan, and is focused on crafting interactive stories that revolve around art, or are inspired by art. We work at the intersection of gaming and cinema, and are proud to be the first XR narrative studio in Italy. We create original projects aimed to be presented at international film festivals, and work with museums on commissioned projects like Past Futures, as well as with brands to create immersive experiences. Our last interactive narrative piece Il Dubbio premiered at Venice Film Festival in the VR section, and was very well received.” 

1923 Past Futures VR Stills #4, 2022, image, variable dimensions, Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts|STIRworld
1923 Past Futures VR Stills #4, 2022, image, variable dimensions, Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts Image: Courtesy of Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts

Reframe began work on the project by looking at the drawings of Giovanni Muzio, who was the architect of the Triennale. They decided to use the aesthetics of his drawings in order to build the virtual space that will surround users. The studio focused on grounding the experience, above all else, within a sense of identity related to architecture and design, as is the case with the Triennale. Lonardi elaborates on this, saying, “We gave it an architectural drawing-esque style vintage look, with sepia tones and little notes from Muzio's work falling like snow on top of you. Everything happens inside the building, so why not use the drawings. You click and see the lines of each installation forming around you, which are being drawn in gravity sketch and imported into the Unity gaming engine.”

1923 Past Futures VR Stills #6, 2022, image, variable dimensions, Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts|STIRworld
1923 Past Futures VR Stills #6, 2022, image, variable dimensions, Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts Image: Courtesy of Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts

Coming to VIVE Arts, the organisation was established in 2017, and their Executive Director Celina Yeh tells STIR, “We work closely with museums and artists to develop digitally innovative projects ranging from immersive educational experiences to ground-breaking artworks. At the beginning, we were mostly involved with museums, in order to create digital content that added a new layer of storytelling to their exhibitions or collections. However, we soon found that contemporary artists were interested in experimenting with mediums such as VR, which enable them to push beyond what is traditionally possible, thus bringing their visions to life. Over the past five years we have partnered with over 50 global institutions, working with the Tate Modern and V&A in London, the Louvre and L’Orangerie in Paris and the Museum of Natural History in New York on their first ever VR experiences, as well as with visionary artists such as Marina Abramovic, Anish Kapoor, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Albert Oehlen. As the digital space has grown and evolved, my focus as Executive Director has been to ensure that we continue to innovate, providing new frameworks and tools for artistic expression. At the end of the last year, we expanded our remit to span VR, XR, web3 and metaverse technologies, and also launched our own art marketplace platform, so that we can build a rich, holistic digital ecosystem for the creative community.”

1923 Past Futures VR Stills #8, 2022, image, variable dimensions, Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts|STIRworld
1923 Past Futures VR Stills #8, 2022, image, variable dimensions, Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts Image: Courtesy of Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts

VIVE Arts approached Triennale Milano with the idea of creating a virtual realityexperience as they were interested in the creative possibilities of using this medium to engage with the world of design. They organised a demonstration for the Triennale Milano team and talked through different ideas together, before the Triennale Milano decided to use VR to reflect on the history of the institution and its most impactful exhibitions. VIVE arts then connected them to Reframe Productions to develop the extensive experience, which spans six chapters and 13 minutes. Yeh says, "We are honoured to partner with Triennale Milano, enabling them to develop and present their first ever VR experience. Our aim is to support institutions through digital creativity and innovation, creating ground-breaking projects that transform how the world’s culture and heritage is preserved, shared, and experienced. As the institution moves towards its centenary in 2023, we hope that this VR work will inspire both visitors and new digital audiences, deepening their understanding of the Institution and its legacy, through an intriguing, exciting exploration of art and design history."

1923 Past Futures VR Stills #9, 2022, image, variable dimensions, Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts|STIRworld
1923 Past Futures VR Stills #9, 2022, image, variable dimensions, Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts Image: Courtesy of Reframe Productions, VIVE Arts

The work of VIVE Arts and Reframe falls in with the other bold new VR experiences undertaken within the museum sector during and after the pandemic. Even though museum culture brings in the kind of audience base that no XR platform can currently boast, this audience was no longer able to access museum spaces. Hence, institutions that had long since drawn folx towards them, were now forced to reach out instead. Content, such as that which Reframe has created, became the perfect vector for galleries and museums to reach out to their audience through. After the pandemic, this trend has continued and even grown in scale. Galleries and museums must act as content producers more and more to reach their audiences and VR/ AR is increasingly a new way for museums to create and sell experiences, in the museum and at home. These are intrepid times for the arts, and it will be exciting to see where technologically advanced XR projects such as Past Futures go in the coming years.

Celina Yeh, Executive Director of VIVE Arts | STIRworld
Celina Yeh, Executive Director of VIVE Arts Image: Courtesy of Sutton Comms
VIVE Arts | Trailer - 1923: Past Futures, Triennale Milano 2022 Video: Courtesy of Sutton Comms

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