Tomás Espinosa wins IDFA Spotlight Award at Mediamorfosis with VR project Continuum

    Handed out this past weekend at the landmark Latin American XR event, the award will see the Colombian artist fly to IDFA 2021 for a bespoke program of industry activities and consultations at IDFA DocLab.

    Based in Berlin since 2011, Espinosa’s art practice homes in on the historical violence against the trans community in Colombia through installations, performances, and street-based actions. In Continuum, he takes another step in that artistic evolution, creating a VR experience that shows the lives of six transgender women sex workers while giving them the space to narrate their own stories. Currently in early production, the project will also incorporate video, writing, performance, sculpture, and photography in what will become a location-based single-user experience.

    Continuum confronts the violence exercised by the army and other armed groups, the family, the church, and society. It explores how the social structures and actors of [Colombia's] armed conflict exercise their dominance over the trans population and over people with other sexual orientations and gender identities,” Espinosa says.

    “The project is an invitation to immerse oneself in the lives of six transgender women sex workers and their stories, built and told by them. It is an opportunity to let them not only reveal their pain, but to see what they have done with it.”

    For Espinosa and his collaborators, which include producer Juan Manuel Escobar and the six performers, the chosen format can’t be separated from the community involved in it. “For us, it is very important to bring these elite technologies down to the 'basement,' that is to say, to use these technologies with communities that do not normally have access to them, but have enough potential to master and affect them,” he explains.

    “Inside the VR experience, each user will be able to be immersed in six different stories, visit six different territories, and interact with a volumetric representation of each of our six protagonists. Users will be able to see, hear (with ambisonic sound), and feel as if they are part of their world.”

    This radically immersive quality, in terms of both format and connective storytelling, resonated with IDFA’s New Media Industry Manager Yorinde Segal, who announced the award on Saturday.

    “Tomás creates, together with the protagonists, an intimate and creative story on the ongoing violence against trans people in Colombia. What struck us most about Continuum is the way it creates an opportunity to artistically narrate their own story of empowerment using different elements like performance and sculpture, all in a VR environment. In order to support Tomás in making connections to develop this project further, we are very much looking forward in welcoming him to IDFA DocLab in November,” said Segal.

    Currently in the first stages of production, Espinosa reports the team is now in the midst of intense multimedia workshops in Bogotá with the performers. Next steps include shooting the first pre-pilot in 360 video, and in the coming months, preparing for their trip to IDFA.

    Read more about Continuum via Mediamorfosis.

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