Did you always wish to travel to the heart of the cosmos to contemplate the whole universe with your own eyes? You can now do so thanks to Xpansion, a 360º immersive experience that is one of the highlights of the programmer of Barcelona’s MIRA festival. We talk to its creators: the V.P.M. collective.

We’re not kids anymore and, although that may pain us, there are things that we have to accept once and for all. No, we’ll never be rich. No, we’ll never be famous. And we’ll never see the cosmos with our own eyes as much as we wished for as kids that everyone could just go on a space trip on the year 2020. Even us. Fortunately, however, technology’s advancing in so many directions that  it could eventually make all of our craziest dreams come true. That may be why lately we’ve become familiar with concepts such as the experimental and the immersive, because that’s all we want: to experience through technology what the whole world is preventing us from seeing.

And that is precisely what V.P.M. seems to have thought of when it comes to giving shape to the Xpansion project, with which they won the MIRA x Hangar competition and which, for that reason, will be enjoyed by many at the MIRA 2019 edition (that is held until November 9 in Barcelona). The term ‘enjoy’, by the way, has been used on purpose: Xpansion is a 360º immersive experience that, thanks to the combination of videomapping with sound and lasers, will directly transport us to the heart of the ever-expansive cosmos. For real, though? We’re about to talk about this with Joan Nieto and Javier Cañal, co-founders of the V.P.M collective.

You define V.P.M. As an audiovisual collective. Who are you and what is the role of each one of you?

We founded V.P.M five years ago. We define ourselves as an audiovisual group because, depending on the type of project, we organise a work group where everyone can adapt to it. Javi and Joan are the two CEOs, we are in charge of defining the concept and the artistic part of the project. We also take care of the creation of visual content. For this specific project we have Samuel Escudero (Derobla) and Gerard Dominguez (Gerard3D). Samu is in charge of designing the soundtrack and the FX of the work, while Gerard helps us with the creation of visual content.

The inevitable question, by the way, is where does the acronym V.P.M. come from?

V.P.M. is an analogy of BPM (as they’re pronounced almost the same in English). Since we started in the world of mapping, one of our distinctive aspects is that our visuals and music have always been perfectly synchronized. Moreover, in many of our projects we work the other way round: you usually create the visual content and then make the sound for it, but we create the soundtrack and then the visuals. For this reason we changed the B of beats for the V of visuals. Interestingly enough, the acronym also coincides with Video Projection Mapping.

How would you summarise the collective's career so far?

It was really hard in the beginning, since nobody knew us. We thought that the best way to promote ourselves was to participate in festivals and videomapping competitions, this way we could have videos of our mappings on amazing buildings and this could be a good way to promote yourself through media. We started participating in national festivals such as the Festival of Light and the  Vanguard in Salamanca or the FIMG in Girona. We immediately saw that in Spain, unfortunately, there aren’t many contests, so we decided to try our luck abroad. Since then, we have been finalists in festivals as important as Art Vision in Moscow, One minute in Japan, KLF in Kiev, Zsolnay in Hungary or SSA Mapping in Brazil.

You will present Xpansion in MIRA because you won the MIRA x HANGAR contest in which 360º immersive experiences were sought… How was it to participate in this contest?

We have always been fascinated by immersive mappings projected on domes; and also the MIRA festival, which has been one of our references and a source of inspiration. When we saw that we could present a project for the MIRA x HANGAR call, we didn't think about it for a second. Being inside a festival of this calibre has given us a lot of strength to continue forward. Meeting the festival organisers and having worked with them has been an unforgettable experience. In addition, Jose de Eyesberg (our tutor) has helped us a lot to understand the content creation technique for Domo. In short, we are delighted ... We hope that they’re also delighted with us!

By the way, how would you explain what 360º immersive experiences consist of to someone who had no idea of ​​this concept?

For us, immersive experiences are directly related to the perception of the viewer, a sensation of absorption that takes you to another world, to another space, to another dimension.

The name of your work, Xpansion, refers to the expanding universe... How have you changed this into an immersive 360º experience?

Our project for MIRA arises because we have always been very interested in the the universe as a subject. Currently, we know that the universe is expanding... But why? What is the force that causes it to expand? What is the force that causes galaxies to move in a spiral? Or that the planets orbit around the sun? What force uses a black hole to suck everything that passes by its side? In other dimensions do these forces exist? Or are they completely different? These and other questions we have tried to solve visually with existing theories but which are not yet demonstrated thanks to the interaction of the visuals with a laser.

In fact, the presence of the laser in Xpansion is especially important...

Yes. The projection of the audiovisual content and the laser will be perfectly synchronised, creating an effect in which the laser will seem to be the one that modifies the visuals. That is, the laser will represent the force that makes the universe move or expand.

Do you already have a project that has you’ll be busy working on once MIRA is over?

We are working on the creation of a 360º audiovisual installation. It is a hexagon coated with holographic fabrics and LED strips. The musician will be at the center of the structure and will do a live performance, all of his instruments interact directly with the software of the visuals and the LED strips. In this way, the audiovisual show will be completely reactive.