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CARNE y ARENA (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible)

15 June - 26 August 2018

Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam and the Fenix warehouse in Rotterdam bring Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ground-breaking virtual reality installation CARNE y ARENA (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible), which explores the human condition of refugees and immigrants, to the Netherlands.

The installation will run in Amsterdam this summer (15 June to 26 August), as the second work to feature in Eye’s Xtended series, which focuses on debate-sparking virtual reality projects by filmmakers and artists. 

Based on true accounts by Central American and Mexican migrants, CARNE y ARENA, is a six and a half minute solo experience that allows individuals to walk in a vast space and thoroughly live a fragment of the refugees’ personal journeys. It employs the highest virtual technology to create a large, multi-narrative light space with human characters.

CARNE y ARENA premiered as the first ever VR installation in the official selection at Cannes in May 2017 and subsequently ran in Milan (Fondazione Prada), Mexico City (Tlatelolco University Cultural Center) and Los Angeles (LACMA). The installation is currently running in Washington D.C.

CARNE y ARENA was given a Special Achievement Academy Award in October 2017 for its visionary and powerful experience in storytelling.

CARNE y ARENA (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible), 15 June - 26 August 2018 at Casco. 22, Asterweg, Amsterdam North, next to Eye’s Collection Centre. Open daily as from June 17th from 10 am – 10 pm. 

Alejandro González Iñárritu and a baker from El Salvador during the shoot for CARNE y ARENA. Credit: © Legendary, photo: Chachi Ramirez.

CARNE y ARENA (Virtually present, Physically Invisible)

Alejandro González Iñárritu based his virtual reality drama on interviews with Mexican and Central American migrants.

“During the past four years in which this project has been growing in my mind, I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing many Mexican and Central American refugees. Their life stories haunted me, so I invited some of them to collaborate with me in the project,” Iñárritu says. “My intention was to experiment with VR technology to explore the human condition in an attempt to break the dictatorship of the frame, within which things are just observed, and claim the space to allow the visitor to go through a direct experience walking in the immigrants’ feet, under their skin, and into their hearts.”

According to Iñárritu, VR requires a completely new language. It is no coincidence that the innovative CARNE y ARENA won the Special Academy Award for Storytelling. The Academy Board of Govenors hailed the project as a deeply emotional and physically immersive experience. ‘It is a creative breakthrough in the still emerging form of virtual reality.’

Emmanuel Lubezki, the three-time Oscar-winning cinematographer and regular collaborator with Iñárritu, played a crucial role in the creation of this Virtual Reality installation along with ILMxLAB and Producer Mary Parent.

CARNE y ARENA (Virtually present, Physically Invisible) was produced and financed by Legendary Entertainment, Fondazione Prada and Emmerson Collective.

What Mr. Iñárritu has proved, with this formidable new work, is that making VR more than a sideshow medium is the job of artists, and that some stories can compel us more deeply when we are dropped into their protagonists’ lives. One of those stories takes place every day along the American border — and in the Mediterranean as well — by people with no greater designs than the pursuit of happiness.” Jason Farago, The New York Times

film, talks, and events

To accompany the installation, Eye offers a comprehensive programme of films, talks and events on borders and migration, also drawing on its own collection.


Eye Filmmuseum sets the senses on edge with Xtended, an ongoing, bi-monthly programme devoted to VR installations by international artists and filmmakers. A number of acclaimed makers have agreed to participate in the series.

Following CARNE y ARENA, the programme will feature work by Laurie Anderson, Marina Abramović and Tsai Ming-liang. Eye is the first museum to offer a multi-annual programme devoted to virtual reality as a cinematic art form.

Also made possible by:


Technical partners:



  • CARNE y ARENA takes place from 15 June up to and including 26 Augustus 2018, daily between 10:00 and 22:00

  • Location: Casco (Asterweg 22, next to Eye Collection Center, a 10-minute walk from Eye Filmmuseum)

  • Tickets are sold for specific time slots; each slot only one person can enter the experience

  • Tickets cannot be exchanged or returned

  • Tickets can be individually transferred

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