Inside an unobtrusive industrial unit on Penarth Road lies another dimension. At first glance this small dark space seemed nothing more than black paint and a few chairs and, knowing nothing about the IMMERSDIFF programme or 3D theatre, I wondered how entertaining the evening was going to be. Then I saw the dome – the 125 square feet of cinema screen that would give me a near-out of body experience for the next hour.
Since it opened in November 2019, Cultvr Lab, Europe’s first immersive cross-disciplinary hub, has played host to dance, theatre, and visual art. Tonight’s programme was presented by Montreal’s Society Of Arts And Technology and consisted of seven short digitally-animated films by Canadian artists. The graphics were based around mathematics, movement, and what I can only describe as “metamorphosis”. The animation surrounded and engulfed, made me feel upside down and sent me into a trance-like state, which I was assured is completely normal. Each film, whether in monochrome or vivid colour, offered a different aspect – some were trippier than others, the “worms” a particularly disturbing example.
Ten years in conception, the Cultvr Lab project has been a labour of love for Janire Najera, Creative Director of 4Pi Productions – a company that sees shared virtual reality as the way forward for the arts. The unit can house up to 400 people, has a gallery and a bar, and is planning to serve street food in due course. At the end of the evening, I was given a tour of the hub – which has six more domes in various sizes – and a taste of ‘live’ dance, and it was easy to see how virtual reality has the ability to bring different people and cultures together.
Being new to 360-degree cinema I had no preconceived ideas and did not expect it to have such a profound effect or to be so awe-inspiring. The space that seemed so small when I entered felt like a whole world when I left; I’m looking forward to sharing another experience.
Cultvr Lab, Cardiff, Thurs 16 Dec
words LYNDA NASH