Spatial Cinema Studio
with Recombinant Media Labs

How might new technologies enable artists to expand the range of existing storytelling modes — and who gets to write the script?

The Spatial Cinema Studio, organized by Gray Area and Recombinant Media Labs, convenes cohorts of multimedia artists pushing the boundaries of narrative form to create new audiovisual compositions for the Cinechamber, a 360-degree cinematic environment that has pioneered provocative immersive media for nearly three decades. Selected project proposals explore the expressive potential of new media technologies, from mixed reality and virtual worldbuilding to artificial intelligence, and how their applications in a multi-sensory spatial format can manifest novel ways of telling and experiencing stories. These works take a dynamic approach to narrative, leveraging the Cinechamber’s affordance for divergent narratives to coexist simultaneously in order to prompt audiences to engage with complexity. After further developing their pieces through workshops and technical support, the Studio cohort will showcase the final compositions in public Cinechamber performances and screenings.

About RML Cinechamber

Storytelling has entered an exciting new frontier with the advent of immersive, multisensory technologies. Learning to compose for surround environments both artistically and technically requires new skillsets difficult to acquire for most artists, and especially for those from underprivileged backgrounds without easy access to technology. The most widely used AR and VR technologies for spatial cinema most easily lend themselves to single user experiences, limiting simultaneous viewing and social engagement with the narratives. Additionally, the pace of technology innovation means that many pieces built on XR technology stacks may become obsolete in years, limiting the exhibition opportunities for the works.

To alleviate some of these deficiencies Recombinant Media Labs has created the Cinechamber platform, an attempt at standardizing a format for the creation and presentation of surround cinema works for live audiences. Consisting of 10-screens HD screens arranged in a rectangular configuration together with an 8-channel surround sound system, the Cinechamber is a floating panoramic rectangle viewable on both sides of the suspended movie surfaces.

This technical configuration is transportable, allowing works to be replayed at exhibitions and festivals, and offering artists broader exposure to audiences worldwide. With the support of an NEA grant in 2014, Gray Area installed the necessary infrastructure for the system in our San Francisco theater, enabling several festivals and presentations of the archived material.

Led by Recombinant Artistic Director Naut Humon, the Cinechamber already has over 60 works developed by internationally recognized artists. However, the current curation is biased toward an older generation of primarily European artists dealing in digital abstraction. We hope through the Immersive Storytelling Through Spatial Cinema Studio to enable emerging artists with broader perspectives to create works to push the boundaries of the platform, and be included in subsequent shows at festivals globally.

Naut Humon

Naut Humon, artistic director and founder of Recombinant Media Labs, is a curator, conductor and creator of the Surround Traffic Control system: the aural optic incubator that gave birth to today's CineChamber apparatus. He has been active in staging events that blur the roles of audience and participant for four decades. A former student of Morton Subotnick in the seventies, Humon presented ‘destabilized’ media occurrences designed to repurpose the visitor’s frame of reference from the prevailing performance proximities of the day. He was head of Artist development for San Francisco based Asphodel records and helped coordinate the Digital Music category at the ARS Electronica Festival for ten years. Along with his own electroacoustic excursions and expeditions, Naut Humon has collaborated with many artists and musicians of numerous influences, disciplines and styles over the years and was the figurehead of the former Industrial ambient group Rhythm & Noise.

Recombinant Media Labs

The Recombinant Media Labs organization was founded to research the qualities and artistic potential of Spatial Cinema. It does so by means of Experiential Engineering; exploring processes that propagate the aesthetic and technological boundaries of panoramic AV exhibition. RML acts as producer and presenter of hybrid artworks and performance archiving based on spatial media synthesis; intermodal works using image, light, sound and other disseminated media in three-dimensional space. The CineChamber is RML's curated, nomadic platform under the artistic trajectory of founder & Director Naut Humon plus a superhuman crew.