What can we learn from immersive tech?

Ulrich Schrauth, curator of London Film Festival’s Expanded programme, argues the case for using extended reality to understand our times – and grasp the impact of technology itself

In the last few years, there has been an explosion in immersive exhibitions. We’ve come to know them as dramatic, large-scale installations that wrap around audiences as a whole, which is an effective way to get groups to experience the work. What’s more challenging – but potentially more affecting – is the approach seen in the BFI London Film Festival’s Expanded programme, which invites individuals into the heart of a story through the lens of AR, VR, and everything in between, but all still very much in a public setting.

This year’s line-up has been orchestrated by Ulrich Schrauth, BFI London Film Festival’s XR and immersive programme lead. Schrauth, who has previously curated the programme, sees the technology advancing from year to year. “We do see an incredible development in the immersive technology sector. Headsets are getting cheaper and more publicly available, with a better resolution and field of view. Augmented reality technology is widely accessible which leads to a huge democratisation of the medium and the advances that artificial intelligence and machine learning are posing to the industry are enormous,” he says.

“But I always see technology merely as a tool to tell stories differently, not a means to an end. Artists will always experiment with the tools available to them, but it should never be about the newest technological advancement alone, more about what it actually adds to the artistic experience.”

Top: Murals by Alex Topaller, Daniel Shapiro, and Artem Ivanenko; Above: Forager by Winslow Porter and Elie Zananiri; All images courtesy the artists