J.R. McCONVEY

SESQUI: The Future is Now Behind Me

August 24, 2017

After nearly two years, I’m wrapping up my time with SESQUI, a Canada 150 project for which I served as Director of Digital. SESQUI is the most complicated production I’ve ever worked on. Its activities encompass 360° filmmaking, Virtual Reality, interactive web content, and taking a big, red inflatable dome across Ontario this summer. Between October 2015 and July 2017, I oversaw strategy, design and production of the SESQUI website, as well as the 360° WebGL quiz, Meet Your Sesquatch, and the mobile VR app, MERIDIAN, which features five original VR experiences, including one I co-directed with the photographer, Hani al Moulia. (The image on the left <- is a detail from Waterball, a piece created in collaboration with Marian Bantjes and loscil.)

From the start, I knew I’d be working with unfamiliar technology. I knew there would be a steep learning curve. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that, instead of a would-be deep dive, the experience was at times more like falling off a cliff into an abyss of creative ambition, impenetrable tech-speak, continually tempered expectations, multiple pivots, compromise, collaboration and periodic mania. But the SESQUI dome drew crowds in Windsor, Sault Ste. Marie, Kingston, Richmond Hill, Thunder Bay, London and Toronto, the VR app is available on all major mobile platforms, and you can make a Sesquatch here. So what for a long time felt like modest creative achievements are being given some new juice and context by the joy of seeing them put a smile on lots of people’s faces.

Canada 150—the sesquicentennial, 2017, 150+, whatever you call it—turned out to be a much thornier laurel than many expected. I still have conflicted feelings about the whole event and my role in it. But seeing how SESQUI has been received so far, it’s my hope that I’ll be able to look back on it as a genuine attempt to search for new ways to imagine a country that is urgently seeking them.

Over time, I’ll be posting more about SESQUI and the various bits of it that I worked on, to unpack a few of the ideas that went into making them, to see what went right and wrong, and to try and provide some insight on the value and limitation of government supported culture and creative tech projects. In the meantime, you can see MERIDIAN VR at the CNE until September 1.