NewImages XR Market Welcomes New Buyers, New Storytelling Forms

In less than a decade, the NewImages Festival’s XR market has become a key international rendezvous, emerging as both the immersive industry’s largest single-purpose event and a foundation of NewImages’ identity. Programing and positioning went hand in hand at this year’s festival, which brought immersive works designed for cultural spaces to the wider public, while inviting curators and museum delegates to feel more welcome and at-home as industry delegates.

Many professional panels focused on inclusion, gaming out ways to integrate new media technologies onto august stages and old world artistic practices, with the Lincoln Center commissioned dance piece “Collective Body” cited as one illustrative example. Other talks picked the new participants’ brains about integrating immersive tech onto World Heritage Sites and developing methods to preserve XR works for posterity.

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Conceptually, museums offer a kind of permanence, with the promise to isolate and enshrine selected artifacts outside the normal passage of time. In plainer terms, such spaces exist beyond a circuit clamoring for exclusivity – making them a uniquely promising new market for back catalogs.

“These institutions don’t need premiere status,” says XR market head Ellen Kuo. “We can offer them a much wider library of content because they’re not following the same cycles and have far different curatorial mandates. We so often see incredible projects fall off and disappear after finishing their festival tours, and that’s an incredible pity. We hope that bringing in these new partners can help solve that distribution problem – because if we don’t our industry will not go any further.”

With that in mind, this year’s market saw a bulked up XR library, with more than 50 experiences presented at the distribution market, and full catalogs on offer from the Kaohsiung Film Archives and FFF Bayern, the Bavarian film fund. Still, the festival’s further upstream XR development market still accounts for the bulk of market activity. This year’s selection showcased 46 development titles, with nearly a 25% of them coming from NewImages partnerships and international residencies.

A partnership with Tel Aviv’s Makor Foundation, for instance, delivered four development projects united around the theme of climate change, fueling an ecological focus that Kuo noticed in many selected projects this year.

Kuo also delighted in a small but growing inclination to explore immersive possibilities beyond the traditional headset, pointing toward the very nascent “Amassonic” as an emblematic project in this field. Co-created by Maria Cecilia Oliveira – a Brazilian academic with a specialty in environmental politics – the experience builds an immersive soundscape to explore the layers and voices of the Amazon River.

“We try to think outside the box and outside the headset,” says Kuo. “NewImages is an immersive festival pushing all forms of creativity in storytelling. Immersive storytelling can go further and further, and we want [to be there alongside.]”

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