Exploring Infinity with Sen: XR Experience of Tea Ceremony

by paradoxig

A different kind of Japanese tea ceremony! One with a distinct flavour, where its savour is enhanced by remarkable visuals, that will lift your spirit. “SEN” a multiplayer VR animation, presented at Venice Biennale 2023, Venice Immersive, is an outstanding experience – playful, reviving and meditative – where you can rediscover yourself, and at the same time, share the joy of this journey alongside other people.

From the start, the three guests are invited into a special tea-house. Once you take off your shoes, and sit comfortably on the small pillow, the already hi-tech tea pots herald a different kind of experience.

The user is immersed in the traditional Japanese Ritual, holding a black Raku tea bowl in the tea house called Tai-an, both national treasures of Japan.

Once immersed, the ceremony starts, and your tea is filled with small luminescent particles – just like green tea, but with more luminescent varieties of green – that slowly move and take different shapes. First it would seem to take the form of a fish that swims in the tea-house, and then becomes a small, cute, and cheerful spirit – that looks at you.

The Spirit is called Sen, an incarnation of tea, born into the world from a Chawan device held in both hands. Sen (one thousand) represents a very large number, infinity. “I have come to believe that we, the life forms on earth, are as pale as particles dissolving in an infinite universe and exist for the time of a heartbeat”, says the creator, Keisuke Itoh.

Furthermore, the user witnesses how Sen discovers the world, the nature with flowers, and butterflies, the amazing dandelions, or the lights that travel, the rocks. And as you move the teapot, the spirit and its world moves alongside your movement.

At a certain point, you can see the Spirit of the other guests in the room – the same Sen. And you realize that you can be linked to each-other as maybe we, all humans, are interconnected in this world – and no matter how we move, these lines of interconnectedness are kept. It is an intriguing moment that gives an edge to the experience to see how the others play with their own Spirits, how the Spirit are connected and play with each other or simply how they multiply. The sound during the experience is just multiplying the effect of relaxation, cheerfulness, and good-mood.

The technical part of the experience is ingenious, as well. As the users are immersed in a room, and at the same time, can see a lot of visuals in the tea-pot and interact with it. During the experience, the clock attached to users hands measures the heartbeat and transmits this information to the sensors from the tea-pot that modules the movement of the particles that give birth to Sen. The device replicates the heartbeat obtained from the watch, allowing the users to feel the rhythm in their hands through the tea-cup device.

From the colourful experience in green tones, something happens: a red shadow – like a fire or a tree – destroys a world and the user is transported into a black and white space. Everything seems lost, but users can still see their tea-cup, in an environment with drops of rain, before meeting the playful Sen once again in its green-luminescent colours, before it falls back into the cup and dissolves itself.

The entire VR experience is like a meditation from the moment of birth till the dissolution, with the joy to discover the surroundings- the space, the nature, the flowers, and other beings, the realization of the connections that link to others, the loss and dissolution. A kind of meditation through life itself, that makes you reflect on yourself, on your life, and on your relations with others. Definitely a must-see experience, one of our favourites that we hope to see in many festivals.

About XR Creator Keisuke Itoh

Born in 1986, in Yokohama, Keisuke Itoh graduated from the Department of Graphic Design at Tama Art University. After working as a graphic designer for a manufacturer, he now works as an XR artist. His works have been shown at the Venice International Film Festival, Cannes International Film Festival, and SIGGRAPH, the world’s largest CG festival. In 2019, “Feather” premiered at the 76th Venice International Film Festival as the first Japanese VR film in the Biennale College Selection. In 2020, “Beat” was nominated for the 77th Venice International Film Festival’s VR section and Cannes XR VeeR Future Award 2021. In 2021, “Clap” was nominated for the 78th Venice International Film Festival’s VR section and Cannes XR VeeR Future Award 2022. In 2022, “Typeman” was nominated for the 79th Venice International Film Festival’s XR section.

Director: Keisuke Itoh
Production: CinemaLeap (Katsutoshi Machiba, Yuta Naito, Taisei Yamaguchi, Kana Kondo), KDDI Corporation, STYLY (Katsutoshi Machiba)
Screenplay: Yosuke Suzuki, Keisuke Itoh, Raita Nakashima
Music: Yui Morishita
Sound: Lactoice
Story: Keisuke Itoh
Art direction: Keisuke Itoh
Lead developer: Katsuya Taniguchi
Developers: Yoshinori Ikeda, Hikaru Takatori
Artist: Keisuke Itoh
3D modeler: Hideyuki Kido
Technical team: Yutaka Hal Hashimoto, Hideyuki Ando, Kayo Watanabe

All photos are copyrighted by STYLY and CNEMALEAP and 80 the VENICE IMMERSIVE and may be used by the press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage

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