Seeing American Bison in Virtual Reality
During a preview in New York of the work Danfung Dennis created with artists Casey Brown and Phil McNally and collaborators Jay Brown, Andrew Delpit and Chris McClanahan, before it was shown in the New Frontier program at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, I was able to come freckled nose to freckled nose with a jaguar, surround myself with monarch butterflies and settle down in the sand with a sea turtle for a few moments.
Dennis has a background as a photojournalist covering war zones and his documentary Hell And Back Again was nominated for a 2012 Academy Award. He developed a new camera capable of stereoscopic 3D, 360-degree video for his technology company Condition One.
In American Bison, wearing a headset, I was dropped off in the midst of a herd of wild buffalo and the effect was spectacular. When you turn your head to the right to follow one of the awe-inspiring animals on their path, another one might sneak up on you from the left.
You look up into the sky or turn around to see what is going on behind you in the landscape and you might miss the Bison kisses awaiting you facing front. The fact that the animals were almost driven to extinction adds to the powerful experience. We are pointed simultaneously towards the impossible - if a human were standing in the midst of the herd, the animals would very likely not be as curious and friendly - and towards the urgent, because of how vital it is to preserve species.
The newness of the format triggers important thoughts. As fantastic as the virtual possibilities are, it is the reality that needs to be nurtured and protected from never-ending greed and carelessness.
Danfung Dennis is the chief executive and founder of Condition One. His film Hell And Back Again won the 2011 Sundance World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize and he won the Cinematography Award.
A Condition One Virtual Reality was exhibited during the Sundance Film Festival at 580 Main St, Park City, Utah.
The 10th anniversary Sundance New Frontier program exhibitions will be presented with the Museum of Modern Art in New York in April and at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis as part of Northern Spark in June.