The Seven Step Verse is a documentary slapstick theater in VR. Performers occupy seven locations in the modernist shopping malls of Singapore and thus comment on their spatial and social structures. FIVARS had a chance to speak with director Ella Raidel.
What led to the creation of this piece?
The Seven-Step Verse was initiated through an exchange grant between South Korea and Singapore. Under the title The Insensible Cities, I developed a project with the Korean artist Hyun-Suk Seo based on our ongoing research on how human senses interact with modernist architectural ideas in different Asian cultures. Incorporating performance elements in the most advanced capacities of VR technology, The Insensible Cities results from the artists’ shared interest in addressing and challenging the ideological and historical frameworks that govern one’s origins and identities.
Through the sensory documentation of the multiple layers of time, memory, perception, and ideas, The Insensible Cities offers a unique VR experience that reintroduces, reinterprets, and restructures the changing dimensions of everyday life in Asia beyond the conventions of cinema and performing arts.
What was the production process for you and your team? What did you learn?
We were shooting in iconic, modernist shopping malls in Singapore and had to deal with restrictions to shoot in public spaces. To work around these restrictions, I observed places mainly used as community gatherings for foreign domestic workers. I was adapting the outfits from advertisements and gestures for the performances.
For the sound design, we read and recorded the advertisements from billboards and signs that all refer to the occupation of these places, such as nail studios, electronic stores, or restaurants. After extended research, we shot it in one day in a guerrilla filmmaking style. We appeared in the shopping malls as cleaners. As the people are not yet familiar with the 360 cameras, we could shoot it without being noticed. It was like a performance in situ.
How did you become an immersive media content creator and why?
Initiated through an exchange grant, this was my first experience with 360 immersive technologies. I am fortunate to be supported by my colleagues from NTU Singapore, Benjamin Seide and Ross Williams, who are experts in that field.
What is the VR/AR industry like in your region?
The field of VR/AR is in high demand, and there are opportunities for research and funding. There is not much content available in cine virtual reality (360); therefore, it is a chance for development.
What would you like to share with fellow content creators and the industry?
I have two new projects in the pipeline: one is for the European Capital of Culture Salzkammergut 2024 in Austria. Under the title Regional Express, we are working on an immersive storytelling project on a train and in Cine VR.
In Singapore, I am developing a project called Hidden Treasure Walks, a guided immersive walking tour also including Cine VR.
Do you think VR festivals like FIVARS are important?
Festivals like FIVARS are significant as a showcase for our research and projects and to give VR/AR technology a platform in art.
FIVARS 2023 runs in person September 15-19th in Toronto and online through October 3rd.