The Infinite orbits Earth on virtual space station

Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

Fewer than 250 human beings have flown to the International Space Station, but now you too can board the ISS in the new blockbuster immersive exhibition The Infinite inspired by NASA missions. The Infinite teleports visitors virtually 400 kilometres above Earth onto the ISS for an unforgettable journey into space.

The Final Frontier

Some 50 years ago, Montrealer William Shatner – as Captain James T. Kirk aboard the starship Enterprise in the iconic TV series Star Trek – famously said that space is the ‘final frontier.” Today, it is fitting that The Infinite has its world premiere and takes flight in Shatner’s hometown, at the Arsenal Contemporary Art centre in Montréal. 

Safety first 

At the beginning of the 60-minute experience, visitors are fitted with a virtual-reality headset – which comfortably complements the obligatory facemask covering your nose and mouth (a mask will be provided to anyone who enters without a mask). 

The virtual reality facilities have been designed with safety in mind and to ensure the greatest possible distancing, and the flow is limited to 100 visitors per hour. There are numerous COVID-19 security measures in place to protect visitors and staff, including temperature verification for staff and visitors, a specialized air filtration system, and increased cleaning of the spaces afterhours. 

Click here for the exhibition’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, in English and in French.  

The voyage

Created by Montréal visionaries Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphäel of Felix & Paul Studios, with PHI Studio and in collaboration with TIME Studios, The Infinite is a full-body immersive journey in seven zones layered with multisensory content to recreate the expedition of an astronaut. 

Wearing VR headsets, visitors experience life on the ISS as if you are really there, thanks to free-roaming virtual reality which gives visitors amazing access to personal moments filmed in cinematic 3D, 360° format by the eight astronauts who live on board. 

This never-before-seen footage was captured by the astronauts for Space Explorers: The ISS Experience — 2021 Emmy-nominee in the Outstanding Interactive Program category — the largest production ever filmed in space, also produced by Felix & Paul Studios in association with TIME Studios, NASA and the ISS National Lab

The Infinite pushes the limits of free-roaming virtual reality technology as visitors freely explore a life-sized reproduction of the ISS. By navigating the interactive content, you can shape your personal journey along the way. It is exciting and very easy to do, even for those experiencing virtual reality technology for the first time. 

My favourite moments were exploring the corridors of the ISS, filled with endless cables and wires. In another riveting VR scene, visitors feel like they are sitting at the same table for dinner with the astronauts aboard the ISS, a scene that dramatically humanizes what could otherwise feel like an alien experience. Also deeply affecting was watching Earth from the windows of the ISS, and reflecting on the sustainability of life on our precious planet. 

Universe within the Universe

After completing the virtual reality tour, visitors can experience Japan’s leading electronic composer and visual artist Ryoji Ikeda’s new audiovisual installation The Universe within the Universe, created especially for The Infinite experience: 

“The audiovisual installation explores the hidden facets and structures of nature. Visitors enter a black square room with an LED ceiling and mirrored floor. The pitch black immensity, feeling of weightlessness and sensation of vertigo are at the heart of this zone.” 

By the numbers 

The Infinite is: 

  • a 60-minute narrative and experiential journey divided into seven zones 

  • 12,500 square feet of space 

  • Up to 100 users per hour 

  • 35 minutes of free-roaming in virtual reality 

  • Composed from more than 200 hours of exclusive in-space content from Space Explorers: The ISS Experience. The experience is presented in English with French subtitles. 

Box office and practical info 

The Infinite exhibition (Monday to Thursday from 10 am to 7 pm, and Friday to Sunday from 10 am to 8 pm) runs to November 7, and can welcome up to 100 visitors per hour. Tickets on sale until September 5. No ticket sales on-site. 

Virtual reality is not permitted for children under 13. Children ages 8 to 12 can share in the experience using a tablet, while children under 8 are not admitted. 

There is no coat-check or lockers on-site. No backpacks allowed. Paid parking is available. 

For more information, visit phi.ca.  

Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

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