by the Finnish National Opera and Ballet
First Session Conference 30.-31.5. Helsinki
First Session – The Conference
Helsinki, May 30th-31st
First Session is a 2-day conference at the crossroads of arts and technology, with a special focus on immersive mediums and performing arts.
Among our speakers are awarded VR/AR director Gabo Arora, Magic Leap’s Director of Product Strategy & Business Development Kathy Wang, award winning producer at Royal Shakespeare Company Sarah Ellis, Head of Experiments in Art and Technology at Nokia Bell Labs Domhnaill Hernon, creative producer Sarah Brin, Managing Director of 59 Productions Richard Slaney and many more immersive experience specialists.
The conference is for anyone interested in advancements in digital technology and immersiveness and professionals working in performing arts, museums, theatres and musical companies.
Conference themes and topics will cover:
VR + AR / Video +
Projection – mapping ]
Sound + Artificial
New op / Era
First Session – Competition
Opera Beyond launched an international call for projects in February 2019. We were looking for an art piece utilizing emerging technology and responding to Esa-Pekka Salonen’s composition as well as Paula Vesala’s story challenge.
The deadline for applications closed on the 23rd of April. We received 195 applications, and out of these, 8 teams were shortlisted. The shortlisted teams will pitch their concept ideas to an international jury at the First Session Conference.
The winning concept will be realized in co-operation with the National Opera and Ballet, Salonen and Vesala. The immersive art piece will premiere in 2020 and tour internationally.
One of Finland’s finest and most diverse art institutions, the Finnish National Opera and Ballet (FNOB), is known for ambitious artistic collaborations. FNOB will be working in close partnership with selected future thinking associations to make Opera Beyond a reality – starting with the First Session. With funding, tools, and expertise we can work together to push the boundaries of performing arts.
Rob Morgan is a game writer, digital dramaturge, and co-founder and Creative Director of immersive AR studio Playlines. Rob was Lead Game Writer and Voice Director on the groundbreaking PS3 AR titles 'Wonderbook: Book of Spells' and 'Book of Potions', written in collaboration with J.K. Rowling, and he wrote and voice-directed 'A Fisherman'sTale' from InnerspaceVR.
Rob has worked on numerous VR/AR projects including writing ‘Firebird: The Unfinished' (VR) (premiered Tribeca 2018) and the 2017 HoloLens project 'SlushPolis Story' (Future of Storytelling Prize-winner 2017), has written premium content for the critically-acclaimed 'Fallen London', and was Content Editor for the multi-award-winning '80 Days'.
Rob is a passionate pioneer of immersive narrative. He directed Playlines' interactive installations at London's iconic Roundhouse and #FutureFest 2016, and co-created and directed the location-based immersive AR Grime experience 'CONSEQUENCES' (FoST Prize Finalist 2018) in collaboration with multi-award-winning UK rapper Harry Shotta.
Annina Antinranta is a concept and experience designer, futures thinker and a coach specialised in service creation and customer experience.
She works at the intersection of people and emerging tech. Annina has a diverse background in art, service design, UI and UX design, branding, marketing, product design and performing arts and music. For the past twenty years she has worked with customers from start-ups to multinational companies designing concepts from mobile phone apps to physical attractions and visitor experiences.
Being future-capable is stretching the mind. Annina is one of the core team members of the award winning Tulevaisuuspäivä 2019 (Futures Day), aimed at bringing future literacy to everyone’s toolkit, and a co-founder of the award nominated Intelligence Augmentation Design Toolkit, aimed at demystifying machine learning.
In recent years Annina has focused on training and coaching designers and non-tech experts on future smart service creation. Annina currently works at Futurice as a design director and lead service designer.
Wilfried is a user experience designer specializing in emerging tech and hardware related cases. From engineering through development to user centred design, Wilfried has spent the past dozen years getting his hands dirty while tackling the ins and outs of human-computer interaction.
From humble origins as a rancher’s son on a remote horse farm in Canada’s coastal mountain range, Wilfried’s work has taken him across the world through a wide variety of projects. These have involved everything from building user interfaces in German and Chinese factories to prototyping rehabilitative health devices in Iceland and making interactive Samba costumes in Finland.
Currently, Wilfried works at Futurice on AR/VR and industrial projects, often serving as a bridge between tech and design.
Ike Rings is a creative technologist who is passionate about the intersection of art, science and technology. He is currently working at Futurice as a specialist of emerging technologies such as Mixed Reality and Social Robotics, both of which explore and experiment with various aspects of human-machine interaction.
Ike's main area of interest are immersive visual technologies, especially Augmented Reality. However, these technologies do not exist in a vacuum and therefore he continues to experiment with machine learning aspects such as computer vision and neural networks with other Futurice experts. These experiments are a part of innovation company activities and when immersive visuals are combined with machine learning and other approaches to AI, unforeseen yet delightful results can emerge.
Experimentation, research and continuous learning-by-doing are vital elements of Ike's work. In the context of the arts, he is especially fascinated by the user interaction and experience with immersive visual technologies and new realities.
Luke Ritchie is Head of Innovation & Partnerships at the Philharmonia Orchestra. The Orchestra has had a dedicated Digital department for nearly a decade, using technology to connect with a growing audience beyond the traditional Concert Hall, creating new artistic experiences that allow you to step inside the Orchestra.
Under the artistic leadership of Principal Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Digital team has created a range of cutting-edge projects, from iPad apps to interactive web documentaries, from its large-scale installations to touring musical trucks, from its extensive video collection through to Virtual Reality. It began working in VR in early 2015 and has created three films to date.
The Philharmonia Orchestra is a world-class symphony orchestra for the 21st century, led by Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen.
The Orchestra’s home is Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, London, where it presents over 50 performances each year. Six other residencies across the UK bring the Philharmonia to a wide national audience. Internationally, the Philharmonia is active across Europe, Asia and the USA.
Panel: Augmenting Live Performance
The panelists will present us with three different ways of augmenting live performance with projection technologies.
The constant development of projection technologies can enhance the level of immersion in stage arts. For example in The Finnish National Ballet’s Little Mermaid, projection technology created an illusion of being under the sea, with sharks and turtles appearing right next to the audience members wearing 3D glasses. Another method is the traditional projection mapping that benefits today from more and more sophisticated tracking systems. The tracking systems can also be used with many kinds of projection solutions, from those relying on video to alternative techniques like laser. In this panel, the guests will discuss the current and upcoming trends in the field and compare three different technologies creating three dimensional effects on stage.
From the point of view of art institutions’ management there is also a very concrete advantage in digital scenography. Instead of bringing in tens of trucks and personnel delivering a set for a visiting production, the entire scenography can be put on digitally.
Jouka Valkama is a dancer and choreographer who has worked at the Finnish National Ballet since 1995. He is also the new artistic director of dance company Ballet Finland. He has worked as video designer in many live performances, and was responsible for the 3D projections in The Finnish National Ballet’s The Little Mermaid (2015).
Kimmo Karjunen is a lighting, set, video and sound designer within opera and contemporary dance. He has designed more than 40 contemporary dance pieces. He graduated as the Master of Arts from the Theatre Academy of Finland in 1991. Karjunen has been a Senior lecturer of lighting design in the Theatre Academy since 1995. He received the State of Finland Award for the Arts in 2009.
Tatu Tyni has worked as a professional magician for 20 years and has toured all over the world, from the US to North Korea. He is a stage illusion innovator and has created his own Digital Illusion Equipment (D.I.E.) based on lasers tracking props and actors. He has created stage illusions for various theatres, including Helsinki City Theatre and Vaasa City Theatre.
Momo the Robot
Momo the Robot is an open-source InMoov robot designed by Gaël Langevin. Having been born to Futurice approximately two years ago, Momo has achieved surprisingly lot. At the age of two, Momo has already been part of a contemporary dance performance "Human Robot Moving Robot", featured in a movie "Outouden Laakso", hosted engaging conversations at "The Other Encounter", taught children, traveled the world and even had an appearance on Finnish live TV show "Enbuske, Veitola & Salminen".
In spring 2018, Momo had the chance to teach autistic children baby sign language in collaboration with Prizztech and Satakunta healthcare district. In addition to working with children, Momo has been a mediator for an artistic telepresence experience during Helsinki Design week in the fall of 2018. Continuing on Momo's new-found artistic side, Momo took part in Futuresday 2019, performing a dance choreography together with performer Iina Taijonlahti.
Having taken part in a number of projects Momo has started to break ideologies and ways of thinking of what it means for a robot to interact with humans. However, sometimes even Momo needs time to rest. When Momo is not working and challenging peoples' ideas, Momo likes to charge up batteries (literally!), and get some body parts fixed and printed.
Jean-Pascal is the Co-founder and President of Headspace Studio and Head of Sound of Headspace Studio (Montréal).
Jean-Pascal believes in a vision of the future where everything you experience digitally is more immersive, more emotional, and more meaningful — because of what you hear.
With extensive experience in audio post-production and music score direction and driven by a combined passion for cinematic storytelling and immersive audio technology, he established himself as a creative pioneer in the emerging field of spatial audio for XR.
Along with longtime collaborators Felix & Paul Studios, a recognized creative and technology leader in cinematic VR, he co-founded Headspace Studio, the first studio entirely focused on immersive sound. In 2018, the studio expanded to Los Angeles.
With Headspace Studio, Jean-Pascal has worked with important creative partners on projects such as the Primetime Emmy Award-winning The People's House: Inside the White House with Barack and Michelle Obama, Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs: Behind the Scenes (in VR), Jurassic World: Blue, as well as three experiences that premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival: Traveling While Black by Academy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams), Gloomy Eyes, and Marshall from Detroit (feat. Eminem).
Kimmo Karjunen (1967) is a lighting, set, video and sound designer within opera and contemporary dance. He has designed more than 40 contemporary dance pieces.
He graduated as the Master of Arts from the Theatre Academy of Finland in 1991. Karjunen has been the lecturer of lighting design in the Theatre Academy since 1995. He received the State of Finland Award for the Arts in 2009.
Callie Holderman is a producer forging opportunities for storytellers to use
immersive technology in their work.
She is the Senior Manager of Developer Experience at Magic Leap, bringing mixed-reality content to market for Rovio, Funomena, ILMxLAB, Weta
Workshop, Wayfair and more.
Outside of her role at Magic Leap, Callie serves on the Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality Committee for ACM SIGGRAPH, where she has curated innovative AR/VR/MR content, produced media segments, and provided operational support for over a decade.
She champions sustainable artistic opportunity. As an owner and visionary
of Endgames Improv’s new theater space in San Francisco’s Mission District, she grants artists a permanent residence to collaborate. As an improviser, she performed with PlaySFMOMA. Her productions and performances have been staged in venues in New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Miami.
Callie holds firm that successful interactive technologies serve to deepen human connection and seeks opportunity to collaborate towards that goal.
Kathy is the Director of Product Strategy & Business Development at Magic Leap, where she helps lead strategic and content partnerships as well as company and product-level strategy.
Magic Leap is a team of creators, engineers, scientists and artists who are building the next computing platform, starting with Magic Leap One, a lightweight, wearable computer that enriches your experience in the real world with digital content, in everything from commerce and entertainment to communications and productivity.
Prior to Magic Leap, Kathy worked briefly as a Sr. Product Manager at Amazon Video and helped with the division's launch in India. Before that, she worked on the investing team at Andreessen Horowitz, focusing on consumer internet startups. Kathy started her career in tech and media investment banking at Allen & Company, advising companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.
Kathy holds an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a B.S. in Finance and Political Science from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
When she's not thinking about the future of spatial computing, Kathy likes to get outside and enjoys hiking and skiing, getting lost in museums and all things food-related.
Managing Director of 59 Productions
Richard Slaney is the Managing Director of 59 Productions, leading projects for the company as a Project Director alongside acting as Executive Producer for larger scale works.
In summer 2018, Richard created and directed Five Telegrams, a unique collaboration with composer Anna Meredith, to open the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh International Festival. Five Telegrams was Richard’s second collaboration with the BBC Proms after the 2016 projection-mapping film, Cello with Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor.
In March 2018, Richard created and directed Array for the Barbican and City of London’s Culture Mile, transforming the Beech Street tunnel into a vast canvas for a newly-commissioned animated digital artwork inspired by Esa-Pekka Salonen’s contemporary classical masterpiece, Karawane, allowing audiences to explore the work aurally, visually and spatially.
In 2016, Richard led the team creating a spectacular event to mark the centenary of the Boeing Company. This once-in-a-lifetime event was the first of its kind: theatre with aeroplanes, featuring animated sequences projection-mapped onto moving aircraft. Projects as a producer also include Lighting the Sails of the Sydney Opera House, Deep Time for Edinburgh International Festival and the Digital Revolution exhibition for the Barbican Centre.
A music graduate, Richard has a strong interest in using technology to allow audiences new perspectives on classical music and music making, and much of his work for 59 Productions has focused on this area. Before joining 59 Productions, Richard was the Head of Digital for the Philharmonia Orchestra (London) establishing and leading the Orchestra’s critically acclaimed Digital Department, creating innovative exhibitions, films, live performances and apps.
Digital artist and virtual scenographer
Tanja Bastamow is a digital artist specializing in virtual scenography. Bastamow's key areas of interest are immersive virtual environments, how new technology affects visual storytelling, combining live performance with real-time virtual elements and finding new visual styles in digital expression.
She has been working as a freelancer in virtual set design, animation and post production for audiovisual media, new media technologies and experimental games since 2000. In addition to this, she has previously held the position of lecturer in digital design methods at Aalto University's Department of Film, Television and Scenography.
She is currently undertaking her PhD, doing artistic research on real-time virtual scenography at Aalto University.
Tech Futurist and Immersive Experience Consultant.
Galit Ariel is the author of 'Augmenting Alice - The Future of Identity, Experience and Reality', a notable keynote speaker and thought-leader in the field of immersive interaction.
Galit Ariel is a transdisciplinary creative and strategic thinker. She defines herself as a ‘Digital Hippie’, since she is passionate about a future that will integrate technology into our everyday lives, but not control it.
As a thought leader in Augmented Reality, Galit explores the wild and imaginative side of immersive technologies, but also their impact on our everyday lives and culture. She is a notable speaker that appears in international conferences (including TED and Slush Tokyo), as well as a leading consultant and mentor for agencies, brands, institutions and think tanks.
Her book ‘Augmenting Alice - The Future of Identity, Experience and Reality’ explores the manner in which Augmented Reality implementation will redefine core concepts within the human experience, contributing to changed perceptions of reality, culture, space, identity, and ethics.
“Ariel does some serious thinking about the role of personhood and individual autonomy when corporations that control our access to a new reality become drivers of markets, and cross-border media giants. The self-proclaimed nerds who saw the Holodeck on the bridge of the starship Enterprise and said, “I want that,” may well want to read Augmenting Alice before they design a new pair of digital rose-tinted glasses. As Ariel suggests, nothing less than the way we see the world may be at stake.” (Sam McMillan, Communication Arts Magazine)
Digital Storytelling Program Manager
Sarah Brin is a creative producer specializing in play, new media, and accessibility. She currently works as the Digital Storytelling Program Manager at Meow Wolf.
Meow Wolf creates immersive and interactive experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of story and exploration. This includes art installations, video and music production, and extended reality content. Their first permanent installation, the THEA Award-winning House of Eternal Return, launched in March 2016 with support from Game of Thrones creator, George R.R. Martin. Inside the venue, based is Santa Fe, New Mexico, guests discover a multidimensional mystery house with secret passages, portals to magical worlds, and an expansive narrative amidst surreal, maximalist, and mesmerizing art exhibits.
Before joining Meow Wolf, Sarah has developed programs, exhibitions, and publications for more traditional arts institutions including the Hammer Museum, British Arts Council, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, the MAK Center for Art and Architecture and elsewhere. Sarah specializes in organizational development and the implementation of new initiatives and technologies within arts organizations. Some of her prior projects include supporting the development of PlaySFMOMA, the artists in residence program at the Pier 9 Workshop, and an EU research grant focused on playful museum experiences.
Composer, Sound designer, Director
is an artist who combines different disciplines. Already
during his studies of classical guitar, visual arts and music composition, Mathis began to experiment with film and sound and since then has combined these elements with live theatre and opera. During the recent years, he added programming to his toolbox to be able to work on interactive projects by himself.
Integrating smartphones and headphones as an integral part of todays public life, Nitschke created an interactive audio tour for promenaders at the Munich river Isar: “Vergehen” (“Passing”, 2016), an opera which one has to walk. It lets the real world interact sonically with the virtual world.
In October 2017, “MAYA” had its premiere: a Mixed-Reality-Techno-Opera
in which central questions of post-humanity have been discussed. In the ruins of the heating plant Munich-Aubing, Nitschke created a virtual cosmos parallel to the real world, on the basis of sound, music, augmented reality technology and digital art, in which the audience could move freely.
Before these interactive endeavors, commissioned by the National Opera Montpellier, Mathis Nitschke created the Grand Operas “Jetzt” (2012) and “Happy Happy“ (2014) together with his long-time collaborator light designer and director Urs Schönebaum. “Jetzt” earned a nomination for ‘premier of the year’ in the Opernwelt yearbook 2013.
Currently he creates a GPS-controlled immersive orchestra experience for the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, letting the user explore the sound within the orchestra as a virtual walk-in installation on a green field.
Gabo is an award-winning immersive artist, filmmaker and Founder/Creative Director of LightShed, a storytelling, technology and research studio collaborating with the industry’s leading creative pioneers and entrepreneurs focused exclusively on emerging technologies currently known as VR, AR and AI. He is also a professor at Johns Hopkins University, where he designed, leads and is the Founding Director of the new Immersive Storytelling and Emerging Technologies (ISET) program and lab. Formerly, he was a Senior Economic Policy Advisor for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon; a UN diplomat with extensive field experience in disaster and conflict zones; and the United Nations' first-ever Creative Director where he founded UNVR - a division of the UN focused on virtual reality initiatives and campaigns.
The output of Gabo’s VR films raised over $1 billion in increased aid for refugees. His VR film Clouds Over Sidra, in partnership with UNICEF, continues to double direct to consumer fundraising contributions from 1:12 to 1:6. Sidra is distributed in 40 countries in 15 different languages and is the most widely distributed and viewed social impact VR film globally.
A native New Yorker, Gabo also holds honors degrees with distinction from NYU and Johns Hopkins University. His mother tongue is Punjabi, he is fluent in Hindi/Urdu, French, Italian and Spanish. He is a Davos World Economic Forum Arts and Cultural leader and was nominated for a term-membership at the Council on Foreign Relations by Francis Fukuyama. His work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, nominated for an Emmy, awarded a Cannes Lions, a Sheffield Doc/Fest award for best documentary, a Lumière Award, two Webbys, and has been featured in the New Yorker, BBC world service, the British Film Institute's Sight and Sound magazine, Fast Company, New York Times and covered widely in the Guardian, Vice News, Wired, TED, NPR and PBS Newshour. Gabo’s VR experience, “Zikr: A Sufi Revival”, World Premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2018, with Newsweek calling it “the most transcendental experience of the festival” and was the first-ever VR documentary to be sold and acquired (by Dogwoof) in Sundance’s history.
Head of Experiments in Art and Technology at Nokia Bells Labs.
Domhnaill Hernon is Head of Experiments in Arts and Technology (E.A.T.) at Nokia Bell Labs. He graduated with a B.Eng in Aeronautical Engineering, a Ph.D in fundamental fluid mechanics from the University of Limerick and an Executive M.B.A. from Dublin City University, Ireland. He is passionate about turning research/ideas into reality and exploring the bounds of creativity to push the limits of technology.
Domhnaill was previously responsible for turning Bell Labs disruptive research assets into proto-solutions that could be tested at scale in the market and he established new methods to overcome the “Innovation Valley of Death”. He is currently responsible for Bell Labs global activities in E.A.T. where he collaborates with the artistic/creative community to push the limits of technology to solve the greatest human need challenges.
Sarah Ellis is an award winning producer exploring new artistic initiatives.
Sarah Ellis is an award winning producer currently exploring new artistic initiatives as Director of Digital Development for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). She has been listed in the top 100 most influential people working in Gaming and Technology by The Hospital Club and Guardian Culture Professionals. During her time RSC she has continued exploration into the future of theater innovation in collaborations with tech giants like Google, Magic Leap and Intel.
Sarah is an advocate for a people-centric approach whilst pushing the boundaries of theater. For example in the Tempest with Intel the experience didn’t rely on pre-recorded footage, but instead turned live performance into a digital presentation by using real-time motion and facial capture for the very first time in history.
At her work Sarah is continuously searching for new ways to amplify live experiences digitally. She and the RSC publish their explorations and lessons learned to encourage other cultural institutions to follow their footsteps.
Vesala is one of Finland's most popular musical artists today.
She is a multi-platinum selling, diverse musician who is recognized for her skills in creating tangible stories and universes through words, notes and dynamic performance.
In addition to her own repertoire, the singer-songwriter has composed songs and written lyrics for countless other musical artists. By the same token, she has expanded her award-winning creative career as a playwright, dramaturge, film and voice actor as well as documentary director. She has acted major roles in award-winning films such as Little Wing (Nordic Council Film Prize) and Unknown Soldier.
Vesala has studied music pedagogy at Sibelius Academy, dramaturgy at the Theatre Academy of Finland and playwriting at University of California.
Paula Vesala continues her solo career under the artist name “Vesala” and keeps on bringing her talent into new striking cross-disciplinary art projects.
Photo: Juha Mustonen
Esa—Pekka Salonen is a Finnish orchestral conductor and composer.
Esa-Pekka Salonen’s restless innovation drives him constantly to reposition classical music in the 21st century. In 2020, he will become the Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony. He is the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor for London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, where the award-winning RE-RITE and Universe of Sound installations have allowed people all over the world to step inside the orchestra through audio and video projections. Salonen also drove the development of a much-hailed app for iPad, The Orchestra, which gives the user unprecedented access to the internal workings of eight symphonic works.
As the Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he is now Conductor Laureate, Salonen was instrumental in opening the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall and made the orchestra one of the best attended and funded in the country. He is the Artist in Association at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, and the cofounder of the annual Baltic Sea Festival. In 2015 he addressed the Apple Distinguished Educator conference on the uses of technology in music education, and his Violin Concerto was featured in an international campaign for iPad.