London Film Festival Expanded 2023: XR Programme

by paradoxig

Bringing together 14 immersive projects from around the world, including three world premieres, presented across multiple London venues

The 67th BFI London Film Festival (4 to 15 October) in partnership with American Express is excited to announce the line-up for LFF Expanded, the festival’s programme of immersive art and extended realities, running from 4 to 22 October 2023.

The BFI London Film Festival celebrates the moving image in all its forms – from shorts and features to television and immersive – and LFF Expanded invites audience to explore and experience these powerful new ways of telling stories on screen. Featuring British and international artists, filmmakers and creative teams, such as Shirin Neshat, Tania de Montaigne, Bjarne Melgaard, Karen Palmer, Darren Emerson and Anagram, this year’s programme offers audiences a huge diversity of approaches to storytelling at the cutting edge of screen technology. Across the programme, curated by the BFI London Film Festival’s XR and immersive programme lead, Ulrich Schrauth, audiences are invited to let their curiosity reign supreme and go beyond the limits of their imagination.

The festival is pleased to announce a major new main venue for LFF Expanded, Bargehouse at Oxo Tower Wharf. This exciting and welcoming space in the heart of the cultural hub of the South Bank will play host to nine projects, with another free work also being showcased at the nearby Gallery@Oxo; both venues are part of the Coin Street social enterprise, in the thriving local South Bank community.

There will also be two free augmented reality walks in the heart of London, one which takes audiences on a local stroll along the Thames, between LFF venues Bargehouse and BFI Southbank, and one through the world-famous Trafalgar Square and the surrounding areas. Additional projects will appear at cultural hotspot Outernet London – the largest digital exhibition space in Europe, with floor to ceiling, 360-degree screens across its four-storey building – and Science Gallery London, which will be home to a groundbreaking audiovisual spectacle.

Ulrich Schrauth, BFI London Film Festival’s XR and immersive programme lead, said: “This year’s LFF Expanded programme is a selection of high-profile artists and filmmakers, who are using the most innovative digital technology to invent new ways of storytelling. Their exciting and playful experiences encourage us to find a new relationship with our new (hybrid) reality. From the most entertaining and visually stunning works to those that will challenge audiences and provoke debate, these creators question our understanding of the world and give guidance to some of the most pressing issues of our times. Come with curiosity, change your inner perspective and be surprised by entertaining, imaginative and impressive XR projects from all over the world.”

Kristy Matheson, BFI London Film Festival director, said: “I’m so excited to dive into these spectacular worlds with audiences this October. This year boasts such an incredible array of storytellers from the wondrous sensory experience of Forager to the privilege of encountering a new work from the great Iranian artist-filmmaker Shirin Neshat, there’s so much for us all to explore at our new home at Bargehouse and across the city.”

LFF Expanded 2023 immersive art and XR programme

Colored – UK premiere
6 to 22 October (closed 16 October) | Bargehouse | 32 minutes | Lead artist(s): Pierre-Alain Giraud, Stéphane Foenkinos, Tania de Montaigne

This augmented reality installation tells the true story of 15-year-old Claudette Colvin, who fought segregation laws in 1950s America. Employing holographic images and immersive sound, this powerful artwork, based on Tania de Montaigne’s biographical essay, transports us back to a pivotal moment in the history of the US civil rights movement. In 1955, Colvin, a young Black girl, stood up for her beliefs in refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. This riveting work is a potent exploration of everyday prejudice and racism.

The Fury – UK premiere
6 to 22 October (closed 16 October) | Bargehouse | 22 minutes | Lead artist(s): Shirin Neshat

Shirin Neshat’s two-part exhibition, The Fury, takes us through the trauma and emotional turmoil a female protagonist must endure during political imprisonment. Her unshielded body becomes the distorted target for objectification and sexual assault by her oppressors. Never graphic or explicitly violent, internationally-renowned Iranian filmmaker and artist Neshat’s highly stylised and dream-like artwork, consisting of a two-channel video and a 360 VR film, is all the more arresting as a result.

Letters from Drancy — UK premiere
6 to 22 October (closed 16 October) | Bargehouse | 22 minutes | Lead artist(s): Darren Emerson.

A captivating story of loss, longing and the power of love, Letters from Drancy compassionately evokes life amid the horrors of the Holocaust. This VR documentary accompanies Marion Deichmann on her daring childhood journey across the borders of Northern Europe, detailing her traumatic separation from her mother, her escape from persecution with the help of the French Resistance and her vivid memories of the D-Day bombings. Marion’s story is full of loss and longing, but is also one of persevering love – a profound story of courage from those who embraced the compassion of humanity in the face of hatred.

Murals – UK premiere
6 to 22 October (closed 16 October) | Bargehouse | 9 minutes | Lead artist(s): Alex Topaller, Daniel Shapiro, Artem Ivanenko

This immersive visual experience uses cutting-edge 3D scanning technology to place viewers face to face with the war devastation in Ukraine, capturing Banksy’s artwork left on the rubble of people’s homes, schools and infrastructure. Participants can experience these powerful images, which tackle warfare and destruction while also finding hope and determination in those caught up in the maelstrom of conflict.

Consensus Gentium — winner of SXSW 2023 award for innovation XR experience
6 to 22 October (closed 16 October) | Bargehouse | 25 minutes | Lead artist(s): Karen Palmer Winner of the South by Southwest 2023 Award for Innovation XR Experience,

UK artist Karen Palmer’s Consensus Gentium (Latin for ‘if everyone believes it, it must be true’) is a powerful exploration into the implications of today’s AI technology. The award-winning international artist and TED Speaker uses interactive storytelling to explore race, bias in technology and social justice. It is an interactive, emotionally responsive smartphone film that integrates cutting-edge facial detection and AI, and transports audiences on a unique quest to discover what could happen if we succumb to unchecked surveillance. Consensus Gentium is an interactive experience designed to drive discussion about data privacy, race, unconscious biases and the power of technology.

Forager – UK premiere
6 to 22 October (closed 16 October) | Bargehouse | 8 minutes | Lead artist(s): Winslow Porter, Elie Zananiri

Some of nature’s greatest secrets are revealed in this highly sensory VR experience that transports participants into the rich and fascinating world of fungi. Microscopic highways of mycelium, more than a million miles long, lie unseen beneath the earth. Making stimulating use of sight, sound, touch and scent, this documentary explores the life cycle of fungi: from spores, mycelium and fruiting body to the inevitable states of decay. Conceived by acclaimed director and creative technologist Winslow Porter, this experience, featuring unique volumetric time-lapse technology, uncovers a little-known world. The

Imaginary Friend — UK premiere
6 to 22 October (closed 16 October) | Bargehouse | 26 minutes | Lead artist(s): Steye Hallema

Ever dream of stepping into someone else’s mind? In this extraordinary Virtual Reality adventure, you become 8 year-old Daniel’s imaginary friend, helping him fight demons and classroom bullies overcome grief and become the kid he was always meant to be: a healthy, happy boy on the brink of adolescence. Using state-of-the-art holographic filmmaking techniques, this mind-bending ride through the human psyche will have you defending yourself against magical monsters and soaring through the skies with your own set of wings.

Flow — UK premiere
6 to 22 October (closed 16 October) | Bargehouse | 16 minutes | Lead artist(s): Adriaan Lokman

This adaptation of Adriaan Lokman’s award-winning 3D short film immerses users in a painted world entirely composed of air, where a woman’s reality is altered by invisible elements. Conceived as an interactive, three-dimensional painting, through gentle movements, users float with the wind, exploring a woman’s transformative night of wanderings. When the dream-like experience concludes, the world undergoes a profound shift, forever changing its nature. Things Fall Apart: A Musical

Installation in Mixed Reality – UK premiere
6 to 22 October (closed 16 October) | Bargehouse | 25 minutes | Lead artist(s): CyberRäuber German theatre collective

CyberRäuber transform W.B. Yeats’ 1919 poem ‘The Second Coming’ into an artistic exploration of music, poetry and visual landscapes. This groundbreaking mixed-reality installation blends image, sound and text into a richly rewarding collective experience. Audiences are invited to step into and interact directly with a virtual gallery, composed of AI-generated images, spoken words and a captivating soundtrack – the latter created by Israeli composer Micha Kaplan. The physical space is transformed by the innovative use of spatial VR, allowing for new perspectives on Yeats’ renowned work.

Haunted Hotel – A Melodrama in Augmented Reality
4 to 9 October | Gallery@Oxo | 20 minutes | Lead artist(s): Guy Maddin

This fascinating immersive exhibition by acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin ruminates on the manifold permutations of desire, deception and death. A special commission from last year’s LFF Expanded and back by popular demand, this Augmented Reality installation unravels across eight three-dimensional collages. For his first fully immersive exhibition, Maddin enfolds his audience in surreal paper worlds, filled with longing, hysteria and madness, and all set to an intricate soundscape by acclaimed composer Magnus Fiennes.

My Trip 2023 – world premiere
Mon 9 Oct 21:00–23:30 Outernet, Mon 16 Oct – 27 Nov (every Monday), 18:00 to 23:30 | here at the Outernet | 7min | Lead artist(s): Bjarne Melgaard

Bjarne Melgaard’s artwork takes the viewer on a journey to the furthest reaches of the web and explores the apathy that our technological environments engender. My Trip 2023 features characters that have recurred in the artist’s practice for over 25 years, in addition to new mutant personalities created in collaboration with Acute Art. This artwork, presented as a fully immersive multi-screen installation at partner venue Outernet, questions how we choose to live – exploring the never-ending flow of information that is consumed daily through a striking visualisation of a psychedelic experience. Commissioned by LFF Expanded and Outernet Arts, produced by Acute Art.

Ghosts of Solid Air – world premiere
4 to 22 October | Trafalgar Square | approx. 60 minutes | Lead artist(s): Amy Rose

Experienced through your smartphone, Ghosts of Solid Air is an augmented reality walk through central London which invites audiences to meet key historical figures during periods of civil unrest. Blending voices from the past with the realities of our present day viewers will explore the nature of disobedience, all against the backdrop of the monuments of state power in central London.

Fleeting Figures – world premiere
4 to 22 October | South Bank (BFI Southbank to Bargehouse) | approx. 60 minutes | Lead artist(s): Åsa Cederqvist, Lundahl & Setil, Untold Garden, Pastelae, Oscar Häggström, SONG

This open air Augmented Reality exhibition aims to create a collective experience in public spaces, focusing on what unites and connects us. Virtually connecting BFI Southbank with this year’s LFF Expanded venue (Bargehouse@OXO Tower Wharf), this outdoor exhibition is a collection of interactive artworks from a number of Sweden-based artists. Take a stroll down Southbank and engage with digital manifestations of public art via your smartphone. Rediscover your surroundings and explore new perspectives on familiar places with this innovative virtual exhibition, created specifically for our festival.

Elsewhere in India
7 October, 15:00 to 16:30 | Science Gallery London | 60 minutes | Lead artist(s): Murthovic, Thiruda

Combining gaming and Carnatic electronic music, Elsewhere in India transports audiences to India, 2079 for an audiovisual electronica performance about a future world where global cultures are nearing extinction and exploring the theme of ‘AI for Cultural Good’. Featuring digital avatars of visionary artists Murthovic and Thiruda, this groundbreaking audiovisual spectacle showcases immersive 3D worlds, generative AI art and rare moving images from the BFI National Archive’s India on Film collection. Presented by Science Gallery London at King’s College London in partnership with LFF Expanded and BFI National Archive.

LFF 2023 booking

Tickets go on sale 12 September. BFI Members book early on 6September and American Express Cardmembers can access presale from 8 September.

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