The Paradox of the Virtual: Iñárritu's Carne y Arena between Innovative Spect-actor and Traditional Fruition

Francesco Massimo Maria Buscemi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article analyses the relationships between text and participant in the mixed-reality film/installation Carne y Arena by the Mexican director Alejandro Inarritu (2017), which I experienced in 2018 at Prada Foundation in Milan, Italy. The film is divided into three sections: the first theatrical, the second based on virtual reality (VR) and the third concerning TV. Theoretically, the article draws on Boal’s spect-actor and on theories analyzing the position of the audience between the opposite poles of passivity and activity; and on conceptualizations of how the digital media have increased participants’ activity. Starting from all of this, the article applies rhetorical narratology analysis to the three parts of Inarritu’s film to find out what kind of narrative experience the film/installation offers the participant. The results show that the second part of the installation mostly surprises and excite the participant. In contrast, the materiality of the theatrical part and the informational value of the TV part talk to the participant more completely and concretely. In the end, Boal’s spect-actor is more present when the participant deals with old and traditional forms of communication than when they are only apparently immersed in the VR experience. Thus, to bridge its gap, VR needs help from old languages such as theatre and TV. This is the paradox of the virtual mentioned in the title.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-27
Number of pages5
JournalNew Techno-Humanities
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Virtual Reality
  • Carne y Arena
  • Rhetorical narratology
  • Inàrritu
  • Spect-actor
  • Realtà virtuale
  • Inarritu


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