Immersive Arts: blending the physical with the digital

XRtists is a national programme aimed at arts, cultural and performance organisations who are interested in blending physical and digital experiences.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Arts Council of Wales, it will support the UK’s artists to harness the enormous potential of immersive technologies.

Extended reality (XR) technologies blend virtual and augmented experiences seamlessly with the physical environments and performance offering huge creative potential for arts and culture.

For those readers less familiar with XR technologies, you may have seen the impact of their use in:

  • large-scale productions such as Abba Voyage
  • the immersive art developed by companies such as Frameless
  • artistic instillations in unique settings such as Mythmachine at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead
  • individual artists such as Bjork exploring her own music in new, immersive ways

The first consortium to be funded through XRtists, Immersive Arts, is specifically aimed to support UK arts and culture organisations that have not had the opportunity to engage thus far in this space.

This support will range from testing ideas, research and prototyping, to developing sustainable business models for incorporating XR into production, practice and audience offerings.

Immersive Arts’ four producing partners, based across the UK – Watershed Media Centre, Wales Millennium Centre, Nerve Centre and Cryptic – have supported 5,550 artists over the past five years and shared work with an audience of more than 70.5 million people.

Led by the University of the West of England Bristol, the new consortium will support more than 200 artists, providing them with the knowledge, skills and networks they need to contribute to the development of immersive storytelling.

The aims behind Immersive Arts, and the XRtists programme, build on previous and current creative technology programmes that AHRC and the arts councils have been involved in delivering.

With this pan-UK programme there is continuing commitment from AHRC and the arts councils to the government’s creative industries sector vision to support a diverse pipeline of talent in the creative and culture economy.

Immersive Arts will provide opportunities to support organisations and individuals at different scales and readiness, covering small-scale ideas testing, mentorship and prototyping, and development into production for audience-facing projects and sustainability modelling for the longer-term.

Top image:  Credit: Jon Aitken

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