Category Archives: interactive

IDFA DocLab: my favourite interactive documentaries

Over the course of its 10-ish years of existence, the IDFA DocLab festival has been gaily exploring the narrative potentials of augmented reality, virtual reality, interactive documentaries and artificial intelligence. Their program, which is part of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, features an exciting mix of hi-tech entertainment, innovative ideas and socially-engaged conversations that i haven’t experienced elsewhere.


DocLab Expo: Uncharted Rituals. Exhibition view in de Brakke Grond, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum


DocLab Expo: Uncharted Rituals. Exhibition view in de Brakke Grond, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum

As usual, this year’s program was packed with dramatic commissions and entertaining debates but it was also anchored in today’s most pressing concerns: the plight of refugees in Europe, the legacies of colonialism, the plague of fake news, violation of human rights, climate change, etc. Topics that are everywhere in newspapers and on television already but with their more immersive, more in-depth treatments, the new digital art forms presented at IDFA DocLab seem to pick up from where traditional media coverage left off.

This year’s edition closed at De Brakke Grond in Amsterdam on Sunday 19th of November. There was an exhibition, an immersive network summit, screenings, performances, a conference and more. I covered some of it last week but in this last article, i’d like to focus on the interactive and/or VR documentaries that you can experience online (with one exception at the end of the list.)

Here’s my short list:


Tessa Louise Pope, Echoes of IS, 2017


Tessa Louise Pope, Echoes of IS, 2017

Tessa Louise Pope’s Echoes of IS is one of the most moving interactive documentaries i’ve ever seen.

The documentary maker brought together 12 people who have been deeply affected by IS and radicalization. Each of these individuals get a chance to explain their own experience. First, there are the people whose lives have been turned upside down by the arrival of IS in their town: a young mother who was forced to flee a life and city she loved in Syria and who continues to be afraid even though she now lives in the Netherlands; a young man who has always fought for a more democratic and fair regime in Syria; a woman whose house was turned into a torture facility after she had been forced to leave her country, etc. Then there are people who were born in the Netherlands: the father whose 14-year-old child was taken away and who died waging jihad. A young man who converted to Islam and suddenly found himself surrounded by incomprehension and intolerance.

In one of the short films, they all get to talk together and explore how their lives have been impacted by the IS.

The films are heart-breaking. Instead of the anonymous refugees who ‘invade’ Europe and the worrisome Muslims, you get to know individuals who have dreams and values similar to ours. The saddest thing about Echoes of IS is that people who should watch it in order to get a more balanced view about the ‘refugee crisis’ will probably never see the film.

You can watch it online too.


Robert Knoth & Antoinette de Jong, Poppy Interactive


Robert Knoth & Antoinette de Jong, Poppy Interactive, Poppy field, Afghanistan


Robert Knoth & Antoinette de Jong, Poppy Interactive

Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong have condensed 20 years of investigation into the trails of Afghan heroin into Poppy Interactive.

Afghanistan is by far the largest producer of opium and this online documentary unravels the global network of insurgents, terrorists and criminal organizations that use drug money to fuel conflicts in various areas of the world.

The work combines in-depth analysis, historical facts and global perspective with personal stories. You hear the point of view of opium farmers, soldiers, smugglers, bankers, border guards but also people who would have lived a perfectly normal life in our own neighbourhoods had heroin not destroyed their life, directly or indirectly.

Poppy Interactive efficiently connects the dots between distant locations, global issues and personal dramas that would otherwise seem completely separate.

Shehani Fernando with Francesca Panetta, Nicole Jackson, The Guardian, Limbo ( virtual reality trailer), 2017

The Guardian is now producing VR journalism. To ensure that their audience is able to experience these new forms of reporting, the newspaper has recently given away 100.000 Google Cardboard headsets. The VR works the team developed allow you to get a more immersive outlook on issues such as autism, flaws in forensic investigations or solitary confinement. But it’s their research on the experience of asylum seeking that was presented at IDFA DocLab.

Limbo attempts to recreate the stress and misery of being one of the tens of thousands of people who are waiting for their asylum application to be accepted or rejected by the UK government.

While asylum seekers wait for their Home Office interview and the subsequent decision, they live on £5 a day and are unable to work or choose where they live. In Limbo you step into their shoes and experience their state of mind while you wait for the decision that will determine the rest of your life.

I thought the black and white sketch-like aesthetic would be cold and dull. However, the visual design competently reflects the daily sense of boredom, isolation, humiliation and prejudices experienced by these people during the long months they spend waiting for the Home Office to determine whether or not they can hope for a normal life in a new country. Limbo is very poignant. The warmth of the voices of asylum seekers, immigration lawyers and barristers gives the work a very intimate and distressing dimension.

Next time please distribute the free goggles to Daily Mail readers?


Gina Kim, Bloodless, 2017


Gina Kim, Bloodless, 2017

Gina Kim, Bloodless (Teaser Reel), 2017

You can’t experience Bloodless online but i liked it so much, i had to mention it:

Filmmaker Gina Kim was still in college when a sex worker was brutally murdered by a US soldier stationed in South Korea. On the 28th of October 1992, the body of 26-year-old Yun Keum Yi was found at the Dongducheon camp town. Two beer bottles and one cola bottle were found inside her uterus, and an umbrella penetrated 11 inches into her rectum. Her body had been covered in detergent powder to dispose of evidence.

For years, Kim looked for a way to tell the tragic story without exploiting the images of the victim. And then she found VR. “With VR,” she writes, “the viewer is no longer a passive spectator, who can take voyeuristic pleasure from a spectacle in front of them (and at a distance).”

The 12 minute VR film Bloodless not only traces the last living moments of Yun Keum Yi but it also explores the issue of the comfort women exploited by US army troops stationed in South Korea since the 1950s.

Bloodless was shot on location where the crime took place. It is as visually stunning as it is creepy. The work won the Best VR story award for linear content at the Venice Film Festival this Summer.

More images from the IDFA DocLab exhibition and a couple of trailers:


DocLab Expo: Uncharted Rituals. Exhibition view in de Brakke Grond, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum

Everything, a game by David OReilly, explores and meditates on tiny living things, on big systems, on how they are all connected. But it’s about far more than that too.

David O’Reilly, Everything, 2017

Catherine Upin, Julia Cort, Nonny de la Peña and Raney Aronson-Rath, Greenland Melting (excerpt), 2017

Catherine Upin, Julia Cort, Nonny de la Peña and Raney Aronson-Rath, Greenland Melting (360 video produced as a companion to the VR work), 2017

The Last Chair doesn’t have the sexiest topic (old men living alone in the countryside) but i liked it a lot. It was peaceful and moving.


Jessie van Vreden, Anke Teunissen, The Last Chair, 2017


Duncan Speakman, It Must Have Been Dark by Then at DocLab Expo: Uncharted Rituals, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum


Duncan Speakman, It Must Have Been Dark by Then at DocLab Expo: Uncharted Rituals, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum


Duncan Speakman, It Must Have Been Dark by Then at DocLab Expo: Uncharted Rituals, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum


Jonathan Harris exhibition in de Brakke Grond, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum


Jonathan Harris exhibition in de Brakke Grond, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum


Jonathan Harris in his church outside of Brakke Grond, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum

Previous stories about this year’s edition of DocLab: DocLab exhibition asks “Are robots imitating us or are we imitating robots?” and Smart guide for connected objects, activism on the dance floor, cooking with phones, a human Alexa. Just another edition of the DocLab conference.

African Robots with Ralph Borland


African Robots is a project by South African artist and researcher Ralph Borland to create interactive electronic street art. ‘Street art’ in this instance means art sold by people on the street, in South Africa and Zimbabwe – usually forms of handicraft using inexpensive materials like fencing and electrical wire, beads and waste wood, plastic and metal. The project focuses particularly on wire work, where artists make three dimensional forms from wire, using a cheap material to create complex results. Basic electronic components can with the necessary know-how also be used as cheap material for creating interactive sculptures.

For this presentation, Ralph Borland tells the story of the project to date, from buying cheap Chinese electronic toys in urban markets in Sao Paulo and hacking them into wire work toys for the Harare International Festival of the Arts in Zimbabwe, to designing custom electronics to activate the ideas of wire work artists on the streets of Cape Town. Ralph describes the ideas informing the project, which seeks to recover basic principles of mechanics and computing: from identifying topological ethnomathematics in the approach wire workers take to creating forms, to looking at the history of automotons - taking in figures such as Al Jazari, the 12th century Islamic inventor whose work is thought to have influenced Leonardo da Vinci.

This event was hosted by Professor Linda Doyle, Director of CONNECT / CTVR and Professor of Engineering and the Arts at Trinity College.

Turbulence.org Commission: “Kill Box” by Joseph DeLappe, et al

Turbulence.org Commission: Kill Box: an international collaboration between U.S. based artist/activist, Joseph DeLappe and Scotland-based artists and game developers, Malath Abbas, Tom Demajo and Albert Elwin. “Kill Box” is the Military term used to describe an area on a grid map that a mission planner designates a target to be destroyed. Kill Box involves audiences in a fictionalized virtual environment based on documented drone strikes in Northern Pakistan.

Modern warfare technology disguises the lethal nature of weapons as they become surgical precision instruments producing ‘clean’ destruction within acceptable limits of “collateral damage.” – Jill Berke, “War on Words: How Language Obscures Violence.”

Kill Box is an online interactive game that critically explores the nature of drone (UAV) warfare, its complexities and consequences. It is an experience that explores the use of technology to transform and extend political and military power, and the abstraction of killing through virtualization. To “play” the game, download the application to your desktop, and make sure your speakers are on.

Kill Box is a 2015 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc. for its Turbulence.org website. It was made possible with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts (USA). Additional funding has been provided by The Phoenix Theatre, Leicester, UK; and The Cutting Room, UK.

BIOGRAPHIES

Joseph DeLappe is an artist/activist with a substantial body of work on the subject of geopolitics and drones and is considered a pioneer in the nascent field of computer games and art. Professor of the Department of Art at the University of Nevada where he directs the Digital Media program. Joseph is lead artist on Kill Box UAV; dealing with concept/content development, theoretical and historical research into drone warfare and primary lead on installation, development of publicity materials and archiving surrounding the project. Working with electronic and new media since 1983, his work in online gaming performance and electromechanical installation have been shown throughout the United States and abroad. In 2006 he began dead-in-iraq, typing consecutively, all names of America’s military casualties from the war in Iraq into the America’s Army first person shooter online recruiting game. DeLappe created and directs the crowdsourced memorial project, iraqimemorial.org.

Malath Abbas is an independent game designer, artist and producer working on experimental and meaningful games. Since co-founding the award winning studio Quartic Llama, Malath is establishing Scotland’s first game collective and co-working space in order to support a community of independent game makers. His current work includes Kill Box, an online game and interactive installation that critically explores the nature of drone warfare, its complexities and consequences.

Tom deMajo is a digital artist, electronic musician and sound designer, and lead designer for project drone. Tom is responsible for unifying the conceptual, experiential, visual and audio aspects of the project, driving the aesthetics and sound in the game. Tom’s work has covered film, animation, games, sound installations and music. He has toured globally as part of electronic music duo Warp Technique, and is a co-founder of Quartic Llama; independent games company. He was designer, sound designer, composer and artist on the award- winning game “other” made with Malath Abbas and in partnership with the National Theatre Scotland. He has collaborated extensively with artists, practitioners and institutions in Scotland and locally such as National Theatre Scotland, Museum of Scotland, Sink, and recently Hot Chocolate and Scottish Dance Theatre. Tom has been regularly invited to contribute to NEoN Digital Arts Festival, and is Artist in Residence at Fleet Collective in Dundee.

Albert Elwin is an artist and programmer, responsible for developing the underlying code for the PD, networking and implementation of all art objects into the project. Originally from New Zealand, Albert now lives and works in Scotland. He studied Computer Games Technology at the University of Abertay Dundee and his career began when he took part in Abertay’s 2012 Dare To Be Digital competition. Albert co-founded Space Budgie, an independent games studio in 2013 where he lead the development of Glitchspace, a visual programming game, well known for its aesthetic and game design. Albert was invited to talk about Glitchspace at various international game festivals, most notably the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco in 2014. For the last 6 months Albert has been working on a wide range of projects and collaborations; developing digital experiments for testing human depth perception at St. Andrews University, an audio/visual digital instrument based on Harmonographs.

Related Works:

Commission Control by Andy Deck and Joe Dellinger (1997)
Here and Now by David Crawford (1999)
CONtext by Jo-Anne Green (2004)

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Turbulence.org Commission: “text_ocean” by Zannah Marsh

Turbulence.org Commission: text_ocean by Zannah Marsh [Optimized for Google Chrome]:

text_ocean is an experiment in random access reading and text visualization, using Herman Melville’s notoriously impenetrable whalefishery epic Moby Dick as source material. Selections of the text are blown apart and become a dynamic sea of words, animated according to grammatical function. The user “reads” the text by ‘hooking’ and releasing words and, in the process, disconnects them from their original lines. Thus Moby Dick is slowly, randomly rewritten by the user, word by word, as she reads.

text_ocean is a 2015 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc. for its Turbulence.org website. It was made possible with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.

BIOGRAPHY

Zannah Marsh is a Brooklyn-based artist, designer, educator, and programmer with an interest in narrative data and collaborative storytelling. She has taught multimedia art and design at New York University, the New School, and in the City University of New York system. Zannah was a resident researcher at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, and she’s interned with the Creative Systems Group at Microsoft Research and with Area/Code Games in New York City. She also worked as an exhibit developer at the Museum of Science in Boston, producing internationally-traveling interactive exhibits. She has a MPS from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (2009), and a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (2000).

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Turbulence.org Commission: “besides,” 3 Networked Performances

Turbulence.org Commission: “besides,” 3 networked performances by Annie Abrahams and Martina Ruhsam:

June 11, 12, & 13 online http://bram.org/besides at 19:00 (CET), 1:00 pm (EDT) (find your local time) Streaming by Ivan Chabanaud/mosaika.tv.

Annie and Martina will investigate the performative potential of real time computer-mediated communication. By listening to each other’s gestures (in a visual and acoustic sense) they will choreograph each other’s actions, despite Annie being in Montpellier, France and Martina in Berlin, Germany. Will they be able to create an intimate space within two webcam windows framed side-by-side on their screens? What will emerge when two vulnerable bodies, their silences, fragmented communication, a few mundane objects, and a lot of uncertainty collide?

June 11, 2015: “besides, the person I am becoming.”
Duration 20 minutes
The audience can interact via a chat window

June 12, 2015: “besides, moved by some thing.” An intimate conversation on death and illness.
Duration undetermined.
No interaction with the public.

June 13, 2015: “besides, Dear Body,”
Duration 3 minutes.
With public chat window, so we can discuss afterwards.

besides, is a 2015 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc. for its Turbulence.org website. It was made possible with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.

BIOGRAPHIES

Annie Abrahams has a doctorate (M2) in biology from the University of Utrecht and a MA2 from the Academy of Fine Arts of Arnhem. She is known worldwide for her netart and collective writing experiments, and is an internationally regarded pioneer of networked performance art. From 2002-2005, she taught at the University of Montpellier in the Arts Department. Abrahams curated and organized “InstantS” (2006-2009) and the “Breaking Solitude” and “Double Bind” web performance series (2007-2009) for panoplie.org. In 2012 she co-organized “Cyposium,” an online symposium on cyberformance; and she published an article on webcam mediated communication and collaboration in JAR #2. In 2013 Abrahams and Emmanuel Guez started the “ReadingClub” project, an online venue for collaborative reading and writing performances. In 2014 she published two books: “from estranger to e¬stranger” with CONA and Aksioma, Ljubljana; and “CyPosium,” co-edited with Helen Varley Jamieson and published by LINK Editions.

Martina Ruhsam is a choreographer, performer and writer. From October 2008 to March 2009 she was (vicarious) head of the theorycentre in Tanzquartier Wien. In 2011 her book “Kollaborative Praxis: Choreographie” was published by Turia + Kant. Her artistic work and collaborations were presented at various venues and festivals, including: Wiener Festwochen, Tanzquartier Wien, brut, Kino Siska, Mladi Levi Festival, Museum for Applied Arts, Vienna, Museum of Contemporary Art, Metelkova. Ruhsam taught at Maska’s Seminar for Performing Arts (Ljubljana) and she has lectured internationally. She is also a member of the editorial board of Maska Performing Arts Journal, and she regularly contributes articles to the magazine. Currently she is completing a PhD at the Justus Liebig University in Gießen.

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Pixel: A Mesmerizing Dance Performance Incorporating Interactive Digital Projection

dance-1

dance-2

Pixel is an innovative dance performance conceived by French performance artists Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne, known collectively as the Adrien M / Claire B Company, in collaboration with hip-hop choregrapher Cie Kafig. The hour-long performance incorporates a host of digital projection mapping techniques, 11 dancers, and bills itself as “a work on illusion combining energy and poetry, fiction and technical achievement, hip hop and circus.” Pixel premiered at Maison des Arts de Créteil on November 15th of last year, and above is a 3-minute exceprt of the shows most jaw-dropping moments. (via Jason Sondhi)

Turbulence Commission: “Condition:Used” by Anna Pinkas

Turbulence Commission: Condition:Used by Anna Pinkas:

Condition:Used gathers bits and pieces of intimate spaces found online to create domestic scenes made out of paper. The pieces of furniture comprising these uncanny miniatures are replicas of items for sale on eBay: The listings’ images were transformed into printable/foldable paper templates, assembled to form intricate scenes, photographed, and displayed on the Condition:Used website. The visitors can click on each element in the dioramas to get a detailed view and a screenshot of its original eBay page. They are also invited to download and print any of the templates to create their own “paper doll house.”

“Condition:Used” is a 2014 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc. for its Turbulence.org website. It was made possible with funding from the Jerome Foundation, now celebrating 50 years of the creative spirit of emerging artists.

BIOGRAPHY

Anna Pinkas is a Swiss-born artist living in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and received her Master’s degree from New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. She uses a variety of media (from traditional animation, to web-based projects and interactive installations) to explore the act of collecting and what it can reveal about the mundane. She teaches Media Arts and Technology at BMCC/CUNY.

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