Rock People

June 7 2020 / 10:00am - June 24 2020 / 5:00pm


A Short VR Experience by Josephine Anderson & Claire Sanford

Time is huge, and it just keeps slipping into the future. An island rises from the ocean, and its inhabitants go about their life’s work – blasting, hauling, and shipping the rock on which they live. Framed as an immersive portrait of a tiny oceanic enclave called Texada Island, Rock People explores the elasticity of time, and the nature of how we spend ours.

During this independent studio practice, Josephine Anderson & Claire Sanford continue to develop an interactive virtual reality documentary using stereoscopic 360-degree video, ambisonic sound design, and animation. The artists are in residence at CVAG Next Door and use the Project Room Studio as a working space.

Rock People is a short virtual reality experience that draws on documentary storytelling techniques to explore how time is spent in our resource extraction society. Set in active mines, abandoned quarries and industrial sites that have been reclaimed by nature, Rock People explores life in a community dedicated to blasting, hauling and shipping limestone – the principal ingredient in cement and one of the main building blocks of modern society.

The VR film blazes through geologic time in an animated, immersive, dreamlike rush of landmasses rising from the sea, and emerges onto present day Texada Island, the only industrial island in a region known for its untouched natural wonders. From a miner surveying a deserted quarry, to a carver reflecting on the permanence of stone, to the birth of a baby in this small town, Rock People meditates on the nature of time and how we spend it. The project contrasts minutes, days and lifetimes against the geologic timescale in which the planet – and the limestone of Texada Island – was created.

Rock People is an interactive virtual reality documentary using stereoscopic 360-degree video, ambisonic sound design, and animation. The voices of Texada Islanders are woven into a lyrical audio narrative, as they reflect on limestone, work, and how they spend their time. The project’s 360-degree video brings the VR user into a world where limestone is everywhere: from a huge mine dominating the shoreline, to a defunct quarry turned swimming hole, to an active pit where a dynamite blast erupts over a tranquil morning. Using a controller, the user can trigger geologically-inspired animations that emerge overtop of live-action imagery.

Rock People is an immersive, sensorial experience presented through a VR headset with a controller, and exhibited in galleries and festival spaces.

Working in two-and three-dimensional documentary storytelling, CLAIRE SANFORD is driven to connect viewers to the natural world with immersive storytelling practices. A cinematographer and director, she grew up on the West Coast of Canada on a small island, where the slow pace of life has influenced her observational filmmaking style. Her work has screened at Hot Docs (Wind Should Be Heard Not Seen, 2018 – short documentary) and internationally. She began working in VR and 360 filmmaking in 2016 with the development of the short experimental piece entitled Rock People, which examines limestone mining in her home community from the perspective of the rock itself. She is currently producing a prototype for an artistic, interactive VR experience that examines the role of dust in the global climate system. Claire is motivated by creative collaboration and artistic experimentation to help viewers see the world through new eyes.

JOSEPHINE ANDERSON is a documentary filmmaker and interactive creator based in Vancouver, Canada, interested in exploring subjectivity and time. Josephine’s past work has screened at festivals internationally, on television and online, with support from the Canada Council, CBC, and National Film Board of Canada. Her interactive documentary, The Sticking Place, was recognized as an official Webby Award Honoree, won two Pixel Awards, and was nominated for a Digi Award. Josephine is an alumna of Berlinale Talent Campus and the Canadian Film Centre, where she was a resident with the NFB/CFC Creative Doc Lab. She served for four years on the Board of Directors for the Documentary Organization of Canada. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of British Columbia, Josephine graduated from the Documentary Film program at Capilano University, and was awarded Capilano’s One to Watch alumni award.