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November 22nd, 2022 | by Mathieu Gayet

“As an artist, I have the confidence to explore the design and aesthetics of my virtual experiences” - Abner Preis (MIRACLE BASKET)

Some projects are bolder than others. And more committed. THE MIRACLE BASKET offers an artist's view on a militant discourse, while developing a multicoloured universe in counterpoint to the subject matter. Let's meet its director Abner Preis to better understand the ins and outs of this unique experience!

The Abner Preis Studios, in Amsterdam

Abner Preis - I come from the world of fine art, with a certain taste for new technologies: sculpture, multi-screen projection, installations with real materials... And I have always wanted the viewer to be in the center point of my creations, at the heart of the device. So naturally, I started with a 360 film, WALK IN WORLDS in 2019, with a VR headset at the centre of a museum installation. Since then I have progressed in the discipline. I can now envision more things, in smaller spaces. And besides, I'm using less raw materials!

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A. P. - With virtual reality, I'm also freer to create entire worlds like for THE MIRACLE BASKET. It would be complicated to imagine this space in real life... My experience in the art world also gives me the confidence to explore VR design and aesthetics without worrying about the audience's reactions. It's my punk side, no doubt, to combine asymmetrical sources to explore virtual worlds totally. It's this feeling of freedom that I enjoy!

The freedom of VR creation

A. P. - The creative process in VR is also exciting! It's not a question of time or ease, because in real or virtual reality it's pretty much the same thing. But I have more choices with virtual reality. Moreover, I work with art venues and museums that really want to think about the positioning of VR within their programming. It's not just about hanging a headset in a corner, but really thinking about the device that accompanies the proposed experience. The scenography, the music, etc. VR is integrated into these proposals, but it is not everything.

A. P. - I am very happy to participate in festivals like Venice Immersive. And it's not so much for my project as for the inspiration I get from seeing the other works on display. From the technical and technological possibilities to the visuals used, the interactivity... There are dozens of possible ways to move through an experience, and this is just one example! Everybody learns, we are in the same boat, and everything changes very quickly!

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THE MIRACLE BASKET, a satire?

A. P. - I consider each of my works as a chapter in my own narrative journey. For THE MIRACLE BASKET, I was invited to the Torino Film Lab thanks to Michel Reilhac. It was there that I met Firat Sezgin, producer at Institute of Time, with whom I conceived this project. Our collaboration was instantaneous, and magical! The story came from our discussions about the environment and the issues that matter. Without being a scientist, I wanted to approach these subjects with humour and a good dose of fun. And a happy ending! THE MIRACLE BASKET is a journey in itself, but one that offers hope for the future. We allowed ourselves a lot of criticism of the times, while playing on the symbols known to our society (Disney, the Beatles, the Kardashians ...). For some of them I love them very much, but I wanted to share my political views on things.

A. P. - It's a project that has a lot of energy, and positive vibes. We often lack that in XR, where a lot of the experiments are very serious. I added a lot of colour and contrast throughout the piece to provide a wealth of ideas and visuals. Comedy in VR is clearly underrated. When I think about the problems of our world (wars, oppression, discrimination ...), comedy is a relief to free ourselves from the evils of the world. And in virtual reality, you participate in history! Very modestly, we offer you here a few minutes of fun with a little reflection in the background.

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A. P. - Interactivity is a field of exploration that interests me. I have some upcoming projects that use more interaction, including a new version of THE MASK MAKER AND THE TREE in VR. In particular to express anger, or artistic vocations, but above all to offer choices. And again, I want to address contemporary issues like migration crises by pushing the viewer to the centre of the subject. This is where VR allows a lot of things, and potentially opens a space of freedom and expression for each user. With the MASK MAKER, the question is all about the inside part of the expression or the outside part of it.

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