October 16th, 2020 | by

CARNE y ARENA is back for a new international tour, thanks to Phi Studio

Iñárritu’s CARNE y ARENA (Virtually present, Physically invisible) has been optimized for touring by PHI Studio in partnership with Emerson Collective and Legendary Entertainment, and will tour internationally, beginning with 2020 presentations in Aurora, Colorado, and Montreal, Quebec.

Originally presented in a world premiere during the 70th Cannes Film Festival in 2017, where it was the first VR experience ever chosen as part of the festival’s Official Selection, Iñárritu’s conceptual installation has evolved to be optimized for touring by Montreal based PHI Studio. Its new format allows for more people to experience this groundbreaking and poignant work, which explores the human condition of refugees and immigrants. (link)

The Installation

CARNE y ARENA is a twenty-minute immersive experience centered around a multi-narrative virtual reality sequence based on true accounts reenacted by Central American and Mexican refugees. Lines between subject and bystander are blurred and bound together through state-of-the-art immersive technology as visitors of CARNE y ARENA walk in a vast, sand-filled space and live a fragment of a refugee’s personal journey.

The work transports participants into the Chihuahuan Desert. There, they join a caravan of migrants being led by a coyote across the U.S. border, leading to a dangerous but commonplace encounter with the U.S. Border Patrol.

CARNE y ARENA reunites frequent collaborators Alejandro G. Iñárritu and three-time Academy Award®-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. In 2017, Iñárritu was presented a special Oscar® for CARNE y ARENA, recognized by the Academy as an exceptional storytelling experience.

During the making of this project, I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing many Mexican and Central American refugees. Their life stories haunted me, so I invited some of them to collaborate with me on the project. My intention was to experiment with VR technology to explore the human condition in an attempt to break the dictatorship of the frame—within which things are just observed—and claim the space to allow the visitor to go through a direct experience walking in the immigrants’ feet, under their skin, and into their hearts.
- Alejandro G. Iñárritu

The Evolution

PHI Studio is renowned for its expertise and know-how in the presentation and marketing of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and extended reality (XR) works.

In optimizing CARNE y ARENA for touring, the PHI Studio team achieved technical feats, finding innovative solutions for portable and durable set design, enhancing automation, gaining efficiency, and reducing set-up and tear-down time.

The capacity of the installation has also been tripled. Initially presented as a singular experience, CARNE y ARENA can now be experienced by three concurrent visitors in separate rooms situated within the 8,000 square-foot installation.

The spaces are designed in such a way for visitors to circulate while limiting interactions and to respect distances safely and comfortably.

We first had the opportunity to experience the work when it premiered at the Cannes Festival, and later in Washington, DC. We recognized its importance and the deeply moving feelings it evokes as we experienced the simulated US Mexican border crossing with Central American and Mexican refugees. CARNE y ARENA addresses issues that are of great relevance, even more so today.  PHI’s mission is to give voice to artists while engaging the public through their artwork. We are proud to bring the PHI Studio team’s expertise to this project, enabling for the installation to travel seamlessly across cities, while providing an opportunity for an even larger audience to experience this powerful work.
- Phoebe Greenberg, founder and director of PHI

Originally produced and presented by Legendary Entertainment, Fondazione Prada, and Emerson Collective, a leading advocacy organization with a focus on immigration reform, CARNE y ARENA has had critically acclaimed runs in a handful of locations including Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Milan, Mexico City and Amsterdam. These entities, now in collaboration with PHI Studio, are committed to spreading the project’s compelling and urgent message to audiences around the globe.

The root of the division in our society comes from our inability to see ourselves in one another and recognize our common humanity. CARNE y ARENA confronts that division, putting us in the shoes of immigrants and refugees, and making it impossible for us to look away. It is an incredibly moving experience that, I hope, will help bring about a shift in how we see ourselves and one another.
- Laurene Powell Jobs, founder and president of Emerson Collective
From its inception, CARNE y ARENA has not only challenged minds but touched hearts in an unexpected way that has inspired a meaningful dialogue that defies boundaries. We are thrilled that our partnership with PHI Studio and Emerson Collective will allow Alejandro’s visionary work to give even greater voice to the journey and emotional plight of the migrant experience while imparting to it the dignity it so rightfully deserves.
- Legendary Entertainment


CARNE y ARENA will premiere in its optimized format in Aurora, Colorado, this Fall and open in Montreal in late 2020. Further North American and European dates will be announced subsequently.

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