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An exhibition for VR makers

  • The fifth edition of EyeMyth is all set to focus on cutting-edge immersive media
  • It presents an interesting intersection of art and technology

The festival presents an intersection of art and technology.
The festival presents an intersection of art and technology. (Photo courtesy Eyemyth)

A penchant for tinkering led Avinash Kumar to inhabit the intersection of art and technology. Through his research and innovation consultancy, Quicksand, he co-founded BLOT!, an electronic music outfit that experiments with audiovisual technology, in 2007. This was followed in 2011 by the UnBox festival, which began as a fellowship programme, later evolving into a multidisciplinary festival platform. Since 2016, Goa-based Kumar has been organizing the EyeMyth Media Arts Festival, which focuses on immersive new media—ranging from code-based design to art that makes use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). As the festival returns with its fifth edition, it will not only look at the latest developments in the field but also explore the way forward for new media artists.

Immersive media is a broad term that encompasses VR and AR, in addition to interactive experiences like gaming and performance art. The field is evolving, with applications not just in art and design but also in education, architecture, healthcare and social welfare. According to Kumar, the main challenge is accessibility—immersive technology is expensive, and most of it is not easily available in India. “A lot of the artists didn’t study this in school or college, they picked it up on their own," explains Kumar, “And if that’s the only trajectory for people who want to work professionally in these fields, then that number automatically will be quite low."

Most of the artists who gain access to these resources are those with the means to travel abroad or to afford an international education. The “great Indian brain drain" of immersive media artists comes with an added concern: letting all the major innovation and creative exploration take place in the West, especially geared to tell Western stories. That’s the course that Kumar hopes to change.

The aim of EyeMyth, then, is to bring together practitioners from diverse creative fields—from game design to digital heritage—and enable them to connect, collaborate and innovate. “In the previous editions, the festival would mainly feature performances and exhibitions besides a couple of workshops," Kumar says. “But this time we have decided to experiment a bit more."

The highlight this time will be Massive Mixer, a two-day conference featuring 50 speakers and over 350 participants. “We realized that the field of immersive media is quite poorly articulated in India. There isn’t a big community of new media artists or creative technologists," Kumar says. To create awareness, he has put together a mix of international and Indian speakers, focusing on home-grown talent that has been at the forefront of this field.

Zainuddeen Fahadh, co-founder of Hyderabad-based game design studio Ogre Head Studio, one of the few Indian gaming studios to have made an impact on the international market, will be speaking at the conference. There will also be Vikas Pandey of BBC India, who has taken new and immersive media to the grass roots, working with Warli artists to tell their stories through VR. Supreetha Krishnan, who uses speculative design to consider the future of humanitarian work, will speak about her “speculative crisis kit", a toolkit of digital resources to look anew at how we consider the problems of the present. A number of other speakers will discuss code-based design, AR, self-publishing, multimedia performance and much more.

Kumar is clear about his objective. “If you look at Quicksand, or UnBox, or even BLOT!, they are all based on the fundamental idea that being in India is exciting; India can provide amazing opportunities and inspiration that we can build on. The more people realize that, the faster this field will grow."

EyeMyth will be held from 29 November-1 December in Mumbai.

Avantika Shankar is a Mumbai-based freelance journalist and playwright.

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