Virtual Reality To Win its First Oscar

Carne y Arena to receive first Oscar for VR

Alejandro Inarittu is probably best-known for his work with films Birdman and The Revenant. He is a rather prolific creator who has won many awards, including the Academy Award for Best Director in both 2014 and 2015. But recently, Inarittu has been recognized for something one might not expect—virtual reality.


“Carne y Arena (Virtually present, Physically invisible)” is a virtual reality installation currently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). It is also Alejandro Inarittu’s latest work to receive an Academy Award.

The work itself is a six-and-a-half-minute VR experience exploring the personal stories of several immigrants and refugees. It is based on the true accounts of immigrants Inarittu himself met and interviewed, and it seeks to provide an exploration of these experiences.

As quoted on the exhibit’s page, Inarittu said of 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… 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.”

Carne y Arena takes the virtual experience further by combining it with a physical environment. Sand covers the floor in the main area, even as visitors are asked to remove their shoes and socks in a cold waiting room. The experience of Carne y Arena is meant to be both relational and abstract, something outside our heads that is also immediately present. Its primary outlet, the Oculus Rift, is a means of attempting to convey an experience the majority of Americans will never have.

Image courtesy of Emmanuel Luzbeki, The Verge

Carne y Arena would seem to be a great example of how immersive virtual reality can be, as well as how it can serve as a tool for empathy. Inarittu’s latest award looks to be a confirmation of this.

The Oscar Carne y Arena is to receive is a special award, something rarely extended by The Academy. In fact, the previous one was rewarded eleven years ago, to Pixar’s original Toy Story (1996). Only 17 in total have ever been awarded.

Inarittu’s VR installation is extremely relevant in regards to what it has to say about the modern immigration controversy. But it has another sphere of relevancy in what it has to say about virtual reality, in providing its experience. Carne y Arena represents how virtual reality can tell a successful story, and also, how that story can come to be recognized within a new medium.

The award for Carne y Arena will be presented at the Governors Awards on November 11.

Stay tuned at B-Button Media for more gaming, film and digital media news. In the meantime, check out a similar article we wrote in regards to an upcoming videogame museum exhibit.

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