Do you trust the cloud to keep your memories safe? Using the medium of VR,  Anna West and David Callana’s film, To Miss the Ending, explores what happens when glitches begin to occur in a world where memories have moved online.

Elspeth Walker |  Ed Cristina Brooks  | 13 February 2020

The duo, from the idontloveyouanymore studio in Manchester, use the film to explore a desolate world where memories are stored online. It was recently shown at the 2021 Sundance festival as part of the ‘New Frontier’ programme showcasing innovative works that push the boundaries of film, art and technology. Last year, it won the British Film Institute’s ‘Best XR/Immersive Art Film’ award 2020, and there is speculation about the  possibility of it touring later this year. 

The film presents a futuristic world that has been destroyed by environmental pollution, job-automation and a breakdown of human connections. Digitally stored memories are the only ‘good’ thing that remains. The film begins with five characters trying to access their memories, but a glitch occurs, and soon they find themselves in a VR landscape where the details falter. A barren landscape is built up over time with an amalgamation of images from various memories. Slowly, within the space, a sense of claustrophobia, confusion and turmoil arises.

It explores what happens when technology fails, and our digital memories stored elsewhere become corrupted. It reflects back upon our world; looking at how constant digital marketing, digital subscriptions, and our digital  lives are becoming intangible. The film supposes a future where this is taken a step further. With the lives of the characters being experienced through VR, created from their memories.  This dystopian film is not far from cautionary tales — such as E.M. Foster’s The Machine Stops — that predict a world where humans are so consumed by the digital sphere they become reliant and isolated. Works that ask, “When technology fails, what is left?” 

Inspired by a play based on the aesthetic of gaming platforms such as Minecraft, West and Callanan adapted the script into a  film to explore how they could blur the boundaries between the digital and physical using VR. Not only is the film set within a cloud-like AI, recreating memories, but the visuals of the piece are as if you are wearing a VR headset. 

VR headsets provide a digital experience that immerses the participant in a computerised world. Through the use of 3D images and sound, you feel as if you are actually in the world you see. Using this technology for the film, the directors not only have delved into the future of digital gaming, but have also created a film meant to be experienced from the point of view of one of the characters.   

The work is also interesting in how it demonstrates new possibilities for cinema. The hybridisation between the digital arts and traditional film could create films that resonate with what younger generations are already immersed in. With Callanan stating: “I think there’s something really interesting about telling that story, using technology that approaches a digital escapism as closely as possible as we can get to right now.”

Yet, the work also raises more questions about the society we find ourselves in today, and where exactly it is headed. It asks us to think about how much we should sacrifice for modern comforts – would you sacrifice your mind? It also reminds us of the fragility of memory, and the dependence we have on technology for unfaltering precision: are our memories meant to be preserved like digital files, or do we have to accept the natural erosion of our own minds as we age in order to keep our autonomy? 

Yet, the work also raises more questions about the society we find ourselves in today, and where exactly it is headed. It asks us to think about how much we should sacrifice for modern comforts – would you sacrifice your mind? It also reminds us of the fragility of memory, and the dependence we have on technology for unfaltering precision: are our memories meant to be preserved like digital files, or do we have to accept the natural erosion of our own minds as we age in order to keep our autonomy?

About the artist

@idlya_annaanddavid, To Miss the Ending (2020) © Courtesy of the artist.
Artist Website

Anna West, is the co-artistic director of idontloveyouanymore, based in Manchester. She is a multidisciplinary artist, working as a writer, performer and director. West wrote and co-directed the award winning To Miss The Ending (2020). 

David Callanan is a co-artistic director at idontloveyouanymore, based in Manchester. He has worked with a variety of production companies, from 59 Productions to Cirque du Soleil. Callanan production-designed and co-directed To Miss the Ending (2020). 

Key Achievements

West and Callanan’s film, To Miss the Ending, has won the Best XR/Immersive Art Award at BFI London Film Festival 2020, alongside being showcased at the Sundance Film Festival 2021 in the New Frontier Collection.

Exhibitions:

  • 2021, New Frontier, Sundance Film Festival Online, USA
  • 2020, XR/Immersive Art Award, British Film Institute Festival Online, London

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