News Release

June 30, 2022

Who Matters in the Metaverse?

Alliance for Media Arts + Culture brings new XR Gallery to life, featuring BIPOC, Women and Non-Binary Artists

This new XR Gallery was creatively conceived by US-based Alliance for Media Arts + Culture, who received an EPIC Megagrant to support the design and development. Versatile Media Ltd., Vancouver, Canada collaborated with the Alliance to bring the vision of the Alliance XR Culture Gallery to life for the Oculus Quest platform.

The vision to establish the Alliance XR Gallery for a virtual platform began with Alliance Executive Director Wendy Levy working with artists from the Alliance Creative Leadership Lab and the Board of Directors. She says,“The Alliance is an organization whose mission is to support innovation, collaboration and cultural impact for media artists and organizations around the world. We were seeing this push to the metaverse being architected by the usual suspects who claim ownership of all emergent technologies. When does it end? It ends when you acknowledge that we are all world builders, and that equity and access is a requirement.

The creative vision for the XR Culture Gallery emerged from a year of virtual collaboration between artists, technologists and producers at the Alliance for Media Arts + Culture and Versatile Media. Aeryn Gray, acting Art Director and creative lead on the project, worked closely with Versatile Media’s key UE artist, Kyle Liu to establish the architecture of the Gallery itself, and each artwork “experience” in collaboration with the Alliance team, including Sadah Espii Proctor, Lead Creative Technologist and Production Designer, with Curators Afua Kafi-AkuaChanelle ElaineKali Spitzer, Jessi JumanjiCassidy Arkin and Valentina Vargas. The Versatile Media crew also included Line Producer Jacinta Hutchinson and Production Coordinator Michelle Yang.

Over the course of a yearlong process, the curators selected themes for four virtual “rooms” in the Gallery, and then curated works of art by diverse women and non-binary artists of color to include in the space. The first exhibition, Unapologetically Melanated: a virtual exploration of the Mythic and da Truth! represents the first room of the Gallery, Ancestral Futurism – a cosmic exploration of cultural, personal, and mythic experience.

When opening the XR Gallery App in a Quest 2 headset the first level reveals a welcome message for all visitors and an introduction to the spaces in the Gallery. You are soon

transformed to the Onboarding Level where a tutorial is available for visitors to learn how to navigate the space. By placing your ‘hands’ on a transparent globe, you transport to the Preview Level where each stage is represented as a sphere that interacts with the controller.

The journey through the Gallery begins at the bottom of a staircase lined with 6 floating tarot cards standing 3 metres (10 ft) tall on each side of the staircase. This larger-than-life-visual is a representation of Jessi Jumanji’s Afro-Tarot Deck. In the deck, Jumanji is true to an Afrofuturist collage style, creating vivid, ethereal compositions on each card. 

At the top of the staircase we see another piece, The Passageway, by Karo Duro, itself a gateway “between the Beginning and the End” that leads us to a central space in the Gallery — the Atrium. 

The Atrium is the central hub of the Gallery, a space where earth meets cosmos and provides a respite for visitors to rest, think, explore their “natural” surroundings. It features a sound/image installation from Colombia, by Valentina Vargas, created in collaboration with La Comadre, the title of the piece and the organization of Afro-Colombian women survivors of armed conflicts. It is nestled among the trees, as well as four arched portals, eventual entryways to the different themed exhibitions in the Gallery.

Touching one of the four small globes at the entrance to the exhibition transports visitors to a different work by each artist included in the Gallery. Artists include Catherine Blackburn, Lola Flash (with music by Nona Hendryx), Karo Duro, and Jessi Jumanji.

  • The works and artists included in UNAPOLOGETICALLY MELANATED are:
    • But there’s no scar by Catherine Blackburn
    • Trapline by Catherine Blackburn
    • SYZYGY I by Lola Flash
    • Woman of Sun and Stone by Karo Duro
    • The Passageway by Karo Duro
    • La Comadre by Valentina Vargas
    • Afro-Tarot Deck by Jessi Jumanji

Each artist was the master of their own virtual space.
The creative technology team at Versatile was responsive to the visions of the Alliance producers, artists and curators during every phase of the design process. Karo Duro wanted to go ‘big and crazy’ with her Woman of Sun and Stone — and big was the operative word. Versatile created separate layers that allowed the Goddess to move, and she stands at an incredible 10,000 metres. It is quite an experience to picture something so large within the virtual space and it truly takes your breath away.

About Versatile Media Ltd.
Versatile Media is a global film studio founded in 1993. The company has 450 creative and technical artists and R&D staff globally. The newly created North American virtual productions studios are headquartered in Vancouver, Canada. The company has built a full cycle virtual production pipeline for both servicing the film and small screen industry and for also producing its own IP and co-produced projects.

About the Alliance for Media Arts + Culture
The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture is a 42-year old national media arts service organization, committed to facilitating innovation, collaboration and cultural impact for the media arts field in the US and around the world. Through a suite of forward-thinking and inclusive programs, we hold space for a dynamic network of artists and organizations committed to powerful creative storytelling as an engine for transformation and the collective imagination. We work to preserve and celebrate diverse cultures and champion free expression as the common language of a democratic society.

For The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture
Twitter / IG / @alliance_arts
Facebook / @Alliancearts
Video Introduction 

For Versatile Media
Roula Lainas
Twitter / IG / Facebook @filmversatile
#filmversatile #versatilemedia