Tamanoir is a French Immersive Studio dedicated to creating international experiences, lying at the intersection of immersive theatre, dance and interactive VR. Located at the cutting-edge art space, CentQuartre-Paris, Tamanoir combines technological expertise and deep artistic insight – with an emphasis on pushing culture forward. Their work has been supported by the CNC (France) and performed at the China Academy of Art and the Venice Biennale. For their new project A City of Foxes, a collaboration with Nihaareka Negi and BRICK Theater, Brooklyn, NY, they were selected for FACE Contemporary Grant in 2020.

A young studio based on expertise in performing arts and VR.

Tamanoir was founded in 2017 by two complementary people. On the one hand, Samuel Lepoil, the Creative Director, studied interactive design at Gobelins while also running a theatre company. His work has always been at the frontier of theatre and new media. On the other hand, co-producer, Rémi Large, had a career as a dancer followed by work in cinema. Their first project, Saving Thomas (2017) was bought by France Télévisions. After this first success, they decided to create Tamanoir.

In their creations, the audience is immersed into an alternative world and are truly actors in the performance taking place through VR. For example, Call me Calamity (2020), mixes immersive theater and virtual reality; it takes the user to the heart of the American myth to witness the birth of the first female figure of the West: Calamity Jane. This 50-minute experience is designed for 12 users wearing virtual reality helmets. They are guided by a motion-captured actress; this motion-capture system allows them to transcribe their movements onto a 3D virtual model, which evolves according to the experience and the heroine’s evolution, from the young Martha Jane Cannary to the character of Calamity Jane. In another project, Birdie Long Gone (2020) the audience can open the trunk of a missing illusionist and discover his secrets. you can watch a video of the making of this project on youtube to understand Tamanoir’s work!

“We try to infuse the passion we have for the performing arts into our creations.”, explains Rémi Large. Yet, in order to realize these creations, they have to deal with cultural institutions that are often wary of new technologies. “Our job is to reassure these institutions and explain to them that we have the same objectives: To promote the encounter between art and audiences.” For them, VR proposes a different type of interaction than the one of video games, by involving the body and its physical senses\. This technology has opened up the field of possibilities and gives rise to new types of experiences such as the one proposed by Tamanoir.

A City of Foxes, a new project immersed in a dark imaginary world. 

Conceptualized and created by artist Nihaarika NegiA City of Foxes, is a collaboration between Tamanoir, executive producer Rajiv Rainier, and BRICK Theater (Brooklyn). It is a tale of compassion, hope, and imagination in times of strife – in a world that is forever falling apart. It allows participants to share a moment of deep intimacy with a seemingly vilified other in a way that might not be possible in the everyday. It seeks to create a raw, emotional, fantastical encounter that places the audience and their engagement at the center of the live experience.

An emotional experience breaking boundaries between fiction and reality

During the fifty minutes of A City of Foxes, interactivity is at the heart of the experience. It occurs inside a physical set and is made for 3 audience members at a time wearing VR headsets. The audience wanders through the infinite deserts and palaces of this land – in order to engage with a fox– played by an actor, who through live-action motion-capture appears as a fox in the VR world. Blurring the lines between the real and the virtual, and between reality and fiction – A City of Foxes pushes the immersive form, from that of light interactivity to one where the voice of the audience is integral to the storytelling experience.

This hybrid form of interactive performance is the trademark of Tamanoir Immersive Studio, which intensifies the emotional experience by blurring the boundary between real and virtual: “It’s the job of the performer to create this emotional bond” explained producer Rémi Large. Indeed, the performer playing the fox is free to improvise but his role is guided by the 36 questions sociologist Arthur Aron devised to help individuals develop immediate understanding between one another. Within just a few minutes, participants enter into discussion with a philosophical fox who explores the ideas of companionship and loss.

Due to the global pandemic, A City of Foxes has been delayed. The audience will be able to discover the magic of the project beginning in summer 2021. Would you dare to try it? Stay Tune for more information.

A City of Foxes:

Nihaarika Negi, Writer/Director/ Producer

Rajiv Rainier, Executive Producer

Tamanoir Immersive Studio, Co-Producer

The Brick, Presenting Theatre 

FACE Contemporary Theater is a program of the FACE Foundation developed in partnership with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States. 

This article originally appeared on FrenchCulture.org and has been reposted with permission. To read the original article, click here. 

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