The virtuous politics of Alejandro Iñárritu’s Carne y Arena

Contemporary filmmakers and visual artists are embracing the potential of immersive digital technology to tell stories in powerful, new and affective ways. Drawing upon my first‑hand exhibition‑based encounter with filmmaker Alejandro Iñárritu’s celebrated Carne y Arena this article extrapolates how the nature of its immersive experience extends the narrative horizon of virtual reality (VR) well beyond the cinematic to the cinematographic, and onto the curatorial design of exhibition space itself. After all virtual reality is experienced in real space. Or, as Iñárritu himself describes it, “We go into the space, we take the space in, and we are part of that experience.” With this in mind, my critical reflection develops upon this point and the ways in which this mediated VR experience was integrated into the exhibition’s encompassing curatorial and scenographic staging at Fondazione Prada in Milan; most applicably, how its dramatised re‑enactment of real stories recounting the plight of a group of migrants and their harrowing journey to cross the US–Mexico border instigates a distinctive form of audience engagement.

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