NewImages Festival and Hub – Facilitator for the XR Industry

by paradoxig

The 6th edition of NewImages Festival will present the best of virtual creation through a selection of works that celebrate immersion in all its diversity and formats.
As one of the pioneering XR festivals, and ecosystem developers, NewImages Festival each year brings something new, and adapts itself to the needs of professionals.
…And right before this new edition, during the last minutes preparations and the exciting chaos full of adrenaline specific to big events, in which last-minute surprises never cease to test our dreams and trust that everything will be fine…
TECHVANGART had a warm and friendly dialogue with Michele ZieglerChief Digital Officer and Director of the NewImages Festival and Hub about the evolution of XR artworks, new projects, the new all-year programs for professionals, but also about… the person she would interview: )

Photo copyright Nikopol

TVA: As the Director of a pioneering festival in the XR ecosystem – a market that is evolving rapidly- How do you see the evolutions and changes in the XR ecosystem? 

Michele Ziegler : Previously, joining the team of NewImages Festival – I joined the team just a few weeks before the festival of last year- I was working as Head of Strategy and Development for the institution (Forum des Images). So I have more of a broad background, and I’ve been doing B2B events in VFX, concept art, etc. But I’ve been, of course, closely following what’s happening around and I’ve been ever since I took over. My main mission is to listen to the industry, also, what has been changing and what the needs are.

I think that what has changed mainly is the opportunities made possible by investors to create Multi Sensorial Immersive Experiences such as the one at Museum of Natural History in Paris, ”The Sensory Odyssey” last year. I think that what has been changing is that the cultural sector has opened up more and more.

As such, we are shifting from an Audio-Visual based community toward opening to Theater, to Live Performance arts, but also more and more Documentary Art, and so the Contemporary Art scene is also growing much closer…
And that’s something that we’ve been trying to do this year also in the festival, inviting not only the XR community but also other artistic communities, such as digital art, which is more linked to the contemporary art sector.

In addition, what we think is also very important is the digital installations for the public space which again is something different, but for us is a way of bringing different populations together in areas of cities.

TVA: We noticed that you are broadening and opening up to different forms of art. And if we look back, when it was established in 2016, it was one of the first festivals dedicated to VR. But since then, there are many other XR festivals and because you took it over last year, how do you imagine it and how do you want to position NewImages in the market to have this unique ‘flavor’? 

Michele Ziegler: I think that what we are doing here, it doesn’t exist in the same size and impact elsewhere. Especially because we are a Non-Profit Organization that is working all year round with and for the industry. 
We are not only during the festival, but also do all year round organizing workshops, residencies to help. 

Starting from this year, Forum des Images strengthens its connection to the field of XR through a new, year-round, international supportive networking program for creators and professionals. Read more about NewImages HUB

In addition, one of my current construction sites is marketing. 
* How do we market XR? 
* We don’t have a big museum behind us or a big company, big private investor. 

How can we promote a small VR movie for example that has a very impactful content, but how can we help them promote their content? 

I think that’s already something different from other festivals. In addition, we are not a film festival, music festival or documentary festival that has an extra XR aspect to it. We are really dedicated to XR all year round and only to this. 
I’m not taking other festivals as a competition. On the contrary. Representatives of other Festivals are coming too and we’ve been working together. 

The idea is also to take this opportunity that we have to work all year round, listen to each other and share experiences to improve our service to the community together. 
We position ourselves more as a facilitator for the industry than just like a big festival.

TVA: Actually, this is the aspect that we like about NewImages Festival, that is it is more than a Festival. We followed closely your work and partnership for example with TAICCA.
NewImgesFestival not only showcase XR movies, but also brings together the entire ecosystem, and help the ecosystem to grow by promoting for example co-productions or help to better develop the distribution markets – which we know is a problem in XR.
And also having the educational aspect for youth, or bringing together experts from museums to better understand LBEs, and trying to educate also professionals trough different programs

Michele Ziegler: Yes, indeed, we have also a bootcamp for professionals on teaching how to curate XR. Because, “what is XR, what does it mean”? – as at the moment there are many immersive events in Paris every weekend, for example recently it was a food market that is an immersive experience. So ‘XR’ became like a marketing term. And indeed, we are having these discussions with professionals about XR experiences.
Also, this year, for the first time, we’re doing a pre-program with international decision makers, showing them the French ecosystem.
Another idea is also to promote and to convince the policymakers on how to help structure and how to prepare a potential Metaverse for example, because nobody is talking about Metaverse anymore. But, I still believe in the Metaverse.
And maybe it’s just a strategy of the big companies to hire lots of people and then let them all go to confuse other industries. And now everybody says to stop putting money in it.
But if one day some industry will be booming, one of them will be the metaverse.
I don’t pretend to know for sure this, but I think we still have to prepare ourselves, in order to keep our Artistic Freedom in the future.

TVA: Let’s suppose that you are a good-witch and you can solve anything at once. And because you are working so much for the entire XR ecosystem what would you solve? Maybe something related to creation, or production or distribution? I know that this is a very long discussion and it can take us hours, but…

MICHELE ZIEGLER: Indeed, we can discuss this for hours….
I don’t like the word distribution and I think that we need to create the visitor experience.
I believe that we have to solve the problem that people are not necessarily thinking of whoever is experiencing the artwork. And I just want the XR artworks to be more accessible.
One of the challenges is visibility, and I want people to see the content, I want teenagers to actually get to see the content.
For me, not being in this particular industry for the entire time, I get to see new artworks everyday. And it’s so sad because some projects and experiences that are from 2016 are considered outdated, even though they have not been seen.
So, a question is how can we make them more visible, how do we solve the visibility issue?

TVA: During pandemic, NewImages Festival functioned as a mix event – offline, online, and in virtual space, How this mixed event went, do you still keep the format?

MICHELE ZIEGLER: We kept our online platform for the networking part, and we are uploading videos in replay because we have the statistics of our online platform showing that there was a very small percentage watching actually the streaming and because people were busy networking.
But, we will keep the videos online accessible longer. I decided to take the budget from the streaming to do more scenography and bring in more people.
We are trying to use the moment for more workshops, for bringing people together outside the festival. And it’s not necessarily a tool for the general public, so that’s why we went into more of a physical festival – there is also the need to be together, to build trust, to get to know each other – I think 80%- 90% of people I’ve only met behind the screen.
I think the human part is still necessary to start and to kick off relationships. And we want to have our meeting point every year, so we can be physically together and to give it a boost for the next year and for the caliber of collaborations and so on.

TVA: And as you already are used to, we come with our Non-Regular Crazy Shot Questions.

Let’s suppose you can talk to anyone from the past, present or future – with whom would you talk to?
TVA: And what would you ask him?

MICHELE ZIEGLER: I would ask him what’s his creative drive? Because I feel like he’s always been very, always very creative and not afraid. He went to New York to be with the black artists and to explore in a time where it was not seen so well, and then he announced he’s gay, and then that he says maybe not gay. But he was not afraid. So I find that as an artist, very encouraging. 

And otherwise I would probably want to interview my son from the future.

TVA: The book that impressed you?

MICHELE ZIEGLER: It is not really a book, but I’ve been obsessed with it Cain’s Jawbone

Cain’s Jawbone is a murder mystery puzzle written by Edward Powys Mathers under the pseudonym “Torquemada”. The puzzle was first published in 1934, released a novel that was simultaneously a murder mystery and the most fiendishly difficult literary puzzle ever written.

NewImages Festival 2023

The NewImages Festival team is looking forward to welcoming you at the Forum des images in Paris to discover the best of immersive creation, with a set of conferences, workshops, an immersive dome, VR or 360° artworks, and until April 9 included.
Discover now the whole program!

XR Competition

Focus Quebec
Fulldome experiences
3 days of talks, workshops, case studies during the Industry Days
XR Development Market
XR Art Fair

More than 40 conferences, talks and workshop will take place during the Industry Days with guests representing the diversity of the digital creation sector!

Also On NewImages Festival you can follow the bilateral exchange program, a collaboration between TAICCA, the French Office in Taipei and NewImages Hub

XR Days aims to promote the exchange of expertise between Taiwanese and French XR industry professionals, expand international contacts and seek cooperation opportunities to establish and strengthen cutting-edge alliances in the field of immersive content.

The Taiwan x France XR Days bilateral talent exchange program, a collaboration between TAICCA, the French Office in Taipei and NewImages Hub, is renewed for the third consecutive year! This program recruits emerging XR talents and selects up to 8 Taiwanese professionals.
8 Taiwanese professionals will travel to France during the NewImages Festival, from April 5 to 9, 2023.

To award the best of international immersive creation (VR, AR, video game), NewImages Festival has grouped a prestigious jury composed of Kent Bye, AI influencer and journalist, Astrid Kahmke, consultant and curator for immersive arts and Marie-Lou Papazian, the founder of TUMO.

Marie Lou PapazianKent ByeAstrid Kahmke
Armenian TUMO’s founding CEOAmerican XR and AI influencer and journalistGerman European Creators’ Lab. CEO

photos from article are copyrighted by Nikopol, NewImages Festival and TechvangArt with courtesy of NewImages Festival 2023 and 2022 and may be used by the press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage

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