New media

Finding new homes for immersive art

IDFA DocLab explores the art of interactive and immersive non-fiction, and its potential for documentary. By embracing a wide range of expressions in today’s new media, DocLab operates at a key juncture. On the one hand, immersive media are maturing artistically, with more and more potential for physical, social, and collective exhibition formats and performances. On the other hand, interactive arts on the Internet are maturing too, exploring more traditional media formats such as video installations, audio walks, and web series.

In 2019, we explored these developments through DocLab’s festival theme Domesticating Reality. Formerly housed in one central venue, the DocLab program spread out across several new locations: A new hub at Tolhuistuin, immersive theater performances in Compagnietheater, an exhibition at Eye, dome screenings at the ARTIS Planetarium, and a VR Cinema inside Amsterdam Central Station—to name a few.

In spring 2019, the Film Fund DocLab Interactive Grant supported three new projects that would later premiere at the festival: Artificial intelligence installation Reflector automated the art of editing films; immersive installation The Space Between Us explored twins via photography, audio, mirrors, and facial recognition software; and Nerd_Funk offered a virtual trip into the post-body reality of Instagram subcultures. Look Inside, supported by the 2018 Interactive Grant, also made its premiere, transforming a real-life living room into an intimate documentary explore room.

Artists as researchers

We also entered the second year of the IDFA DocLab R&D Program, an innovative framework that uses the festival as a living lab for experimentation, research, and development. Main collaborator MIT Open Documentary Lab published their initial findings from the first year of the program, while exploring a new research question on tactics of ‘story-telling’ vs. ‘story-finding’ in immersive art.

A range of new projects co-commissioned by IDFA DocLab helped guide the research across formats such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality, immersive theater, and new exhibition formats. Even Richard Nixon made an appearance—albeit in deep fake form—in Francesca Panetta and Halsey Burgund's In Event of Moon Disaster.

Art x tech x reality

Other industry mainstays included the IDFA DocLab Interactive Conference, a deep dive into the relation between art, tech, and reality, with keynotes by artists such as Agnieszka Polska, Vincent Morisset, Moniker, Hshin Chien, and Lena Herzog, as well as industry leaders such as Monique Simard and William Uricchio. New in 2019, IDFA Forum and DocLab joined forces for the IDFA DocLab Forum. The renewed forum featured more mixed reality (XR) projects pitched than ever before, several new pitching formats, a demo day with prototypes, and a series of industry round tables on the challenges of exhibiting immersive art, new distribution models, and forging collaborations across disciplines, regions, and cultures.

IDFA DocLab is supported by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy of the Netherlands, CLICKNL, Netherlands Film Fund, Mondriaan Fund, ARTE, Flanders Audiovisual Fund, Tolhuistuin, and MIAP Foundation. IDFA DocLab Research Collaborations include the MIT Open Documentary Lab and The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, POPKRAFT, CreativeXR, Diversion cinema, The Immersive Storytelling Studio (National Theatre), and Het Nieuwe Instituut.