In the eyes of the animals In the eyes of the animals

The Review/ Feature/

Hotdog Keyboards and Flying Dragonflies: A POP01 Preview Guide

Virtual Reality, IRL

Jun 17, 2016

This summer at TIFF Bell Lightbox, we’re all about things that go POP. For the first time ever, we’re showcasing virtual reality, via a series of three summer pop-up installations in our exhibition space. Each one will be open to the public for one weekend only, and each will focus on the intersection between virtual reality and a particular kind of art.

Maybe you’ve heard a lot about VR — or even seen Instagram posts of your friends in the signature helmets — and are anxious to explore. Get your feet wet with our first series, running June 24th to 26th, which allows you do everything from roleplaying at a Cirque Du Soleil show to experiencing a live performance by Montreal musician Patrick Watson. Running the gamut between music videos, video games, art installations and visual sculpting, this first series makes the case for VR as art itself. Here are our three select picks from POP 01, in collaboration with The FADER, which finds experimentation and play between music, art and the moving image.


Originally commissioned by the AND Festival and set in Grizedale forest in the United Kingdom, users will strap on a furry moss-covered headset that vibrates with three-dimensional sound to explore a world of tree-top canopies. You also get to face fuzzy little friends in high-def as you choose between three creatures (dragonfly, frog, or owl) to explore the world around you. The camerawork is slow, magnetic, creeping, a Terrence Mallick film that can hack your senses.

Says MLF studio co-founder Barney Steel in a previous interview, “Using VR to immerse someone in the sights and sounds of animals creates empathy by simulating the way that others sense the world.” But don’t take his word for it. You can watch a bunch of British people freaking out after experiencing this installation below.

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Perhaps, instead of floating through the forest as a mythical creature, you would rather enter a trippy playground where you can play instruments made out of candy? For those of us who dream of living in a Lisa Frank lunchbox, Playthings is a child-like fever dream where users can jam on gummi bear xylophones, hot dog pianos and neon hamburger steel drums that they build themselves. It’s adorable, highly interactive and will probably give you the munchies.

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Made for Playstation 4, GNOG takes place in a universe of ever-changing, double-sided monster heads. These interactive interiorities are filled with different puzzles and musical soundscapes that kind of sound like the Drive soundtrack. The series was made by a four-person virtual reality team based in Montreal who claims: “We think it’s a game that you’ll really lose yourself in if you’re a fan of puzzles, adventures, cool art, and chill music.” They also say they take inspiration from the micro worlds of Polly Pocket and Mighty Max.

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But wait, there’s more! Head to​pop01 to see our preview guide and what’s on, including music video VR installations by Run The Jewels, Jazz Cartier, Patrick Watson and Martina Sorbara & Tiny Lungs. And POP ‘til you drop by buying advance tickets to POP 02 (July 15 to 17), which explores themes of empathy and real world storytelling, including immersive documentaries. Our final series, POP 03 (August 19 to 21), finds connections to virtual reality through experimental film.

Reality bites. Virtual reality has hot dog pianos.