From Sept. 2 to 12, Portlanders will be among few in the world who have access to the immersive virtual reality experience of La Biennale di Venezia, the long-running exhibition that has been based in Venice, Italy, for over a century. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the organization has turned its most innovative exhibition global, partnering with galleries and museums from Amsterdam to Paris to Moscow, and Portland's own NW Film Center and Art Museum have been announced as the exclusive U.S. partners to host "Venice VR Expanded."

Attendees will have the opportunity to engage with the highest caliber of VR production without compromising safety––the event will be hosted in the Fields Ballroom, where all gear will be fully sanitized after socially distanced participants enjoy their one-hour slot. There will be 39 different VR experiences to choose from, hand selected by the exhibition's programmers, which draw from 44 artists and 24 countries. Some are the product of veteran creators. Others come from rising talent in the field.

Here are five selections to watch for, whether you are interested in the brainchild of a Marvel Cinematic Universe mastermind or a highly stylized nonverbal take on the art of documentary.

Baba Yaga

You are in good hands with two virtual reality powerhouses––Eric Darnell is the award-winning director behind multiple DreamWorks Animation blockbusters, and Mathias Chelebourg is a filmmaker and screenwriter who was recently nominated for a Best Immersive Experience award at the Tribeca Film Festival. The duo have come together to produce Baba Yaga, an animated film voiced by Star Wars alum Daisy Ridley. Follow her into the woods to explore an ethereal world of witches, spells and mystical forces.

Gnomes & Goblins

Filmmakers Jon Favreau and Jake Rowell have covered just about every corner of the fantasy universe. Favreau's credits include the Iron Man franchise, The Lion King and The Mandalorian, while Rowell has worked to craft video game classics such as Final Fantasy and Call of Duty. The two have collaborated on Gnomes & Goblins for the exhibition, an interactive, story-driven game that brings the viewer into an alternate universe where––you guessed it––gnomes and goblins run wild. As the lead character, viewers are submerged into hyperrealistic fantasy, living alongside creatures that could only exist in today's experiential art.

We Live Here

Filmmaker and screenwriter Rose Troche's latest production is We Live Here, an immersive VR experience that seeks to remove the barriers of perspective and expand the bounds of empathy in regards to homelessness. Viewers are introduced to Rockey, a 60-year-old homeless woman who is left with critical choices to make on the day she is instructed by police to leave the park where she lives. Troche's past credits have explored gay life in the 1990s and sexuality in the suburbs, carving out a niche of art that engages the realities of human experience.

Kinshasa Now

Official still from Kinasha Now
Official still from Kinasha Now

Kinshasa Now is Belgian filmmaker Marc-Henri Wajnberg's follow-up to his 2012 feature Kinshasa Kids, a film that explored life in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo amidst the separation of families. In the city, 35,000 children have been left by their parents to live on the streets following accusations of witchcraft. Wajnberg's VR film draws viewers to this experience through the lens of a 14-year-old boy, Mika, who must learn to adapt to his circumstances and survive within the brutality of child poverty.

Terrain

Image from Lily Baldwin’s website
Image from Lily Baldwin’s website

Terrain, the installation created by artist Lily Baldwin, animator Saschka Unseld and filmmaker Kumar Atre, is difficult to describe, which is maybe the point. The audio-visual production is entirely nonverbal, allowing participants to reevaluate the space between the self and the other through our physical––or virtual––bodies. As an alternative to the traditional documentary format, Terrain brings viewers to characters across the globe, using the freedoms of virtual reality to emphasize our interconnectedness in times of isolation.

Learn more about the programming and how to set up your visit at this link: portlandartmuseum.org/exhibitions/venice-vr-expanded/