Home Arts PHI Centre Hosts Venice VR Expanded for the Second Year

PHI Centre Hosts Venice VR Expanded for the Second Year

by Ashley Fish Robertson September 6, 2021
PHI Centre Hosts Venice VR Expanded for the Second Year

This exhibition features nearly 40 top-of-the-line VR works

For the second year in a row, the PHI Centre is hosting Venice VR Expanded, an exhibition that features nearly 40 top-of-the-line VR works. Montrealers have the exclusive chance to visit this unique exhibition as the PHI Centre is currently the only cultural venue in Canada to ever showcase Venice VR Expanded.

The exhibition is open to the public from Sept. 1 to Sept. 19. Each ticket affords visitors the chance to spend two hours in the exhibition. UK-based curators Liz Rosenthal and Michel Reilhac have worked hard this year to deliver innovative works that challenge previous conceptions of virtual reality environments. 

When I arrived at the PHI Centre early on a Tuesday morning, I made my way up to the fourth floor. Lingering behind a group of nine masked visitors, I waited to be seated, where I would be handed a VR headset and two remotes. Despite my weak stomach and history of unpleasant experiences with VR headsets, I was determined to enjoy this outing. Before I knew it, I was transported into several peculiar and beautiful worlds.

The first work that I decided to explore was a short film titled Caves by Director Carlos Isabel García. This 19-minute film invites viewers to follow three explorers deep into a network of tunnels that are, to say the least, anxiety-inducing. This work was absolutely thrilling and granted me a newfound respect for those who are brave enough to risk their lives in the name of exploration.

The next work I settled on was a short animated film titled Bing mei guei (The Sick Rose) by Tang Zhi-zhong and Huang Yun-hsien. The emotional 17-minute film follows a young girl who is hell-bent on bringing a magical rose to her mother, a woman who is a courageous front-line hospital worker amidst a raging pandemic. Though the film’s theme is gloomy at its core, and at times uncomfortably familiar, the secondary characters, namely a tribe of rats and a handful of demonic beings, make for a lively addition.

Finally, I decided to watch Micro Monsters by Elliot Graves. With many scenes involving larger-than-life bugs, I found myself overtaken with fascination rather than repulsion (as I was originally prepared for). Viewers are given a chance to take in every minute detail of these creatures, ones that they may normally pay no mind to. This documentary did not disappoint, and I ended up learning quite a few interesting facts. I now know that scorpions glow in the dark. 

Venice VR truly offers something for everyone, and I applaud the wide-ranging subjects that it covers. There are very few exhibitions that have managed to leave such a mark on me. 

Walking out onto Saint-Paul Street after the exhibition, I felt different. Not in a life-altering way, but I felt as though I had been presented with a special gift: the rare opportunity to briefly escape the boundaries of everyday life, where I was free to delve into the unknown, absorbing and appreciating it in 360-degree view.

One thing is certain: I will be returning next year to experience even more cutting-edge projects.

The PHI Centre is located at 315 Saint-Paul St. W.


Photo by Myriam Achard

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