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IDFA 2020: Doclab & Paradocs

The Dutch at DocLab: silence, sunsets and the traces of others

Brilliant, imaginative and very much other worldly Dutch projects are in the ascendant at IDFA DocLab, including two recipients of Film Fund DocLab Interactive Grants, Echoes of Silence by Tamara Shogaolu and 24H Sunrise/Sunset by Dries Depoorter and Shishani Vranckx.

At DocLab 2020, director Tamara Shogaolu creates her first "full-dome experience", which explores how the sound of space is imagined across cultures. Of course, in space there is no sound, no matter how great the planetary collision or how violent the supernova. But there is one place where space is very loud, in the movies.

For Shogaolu, it all began back in the US where she attended lectures given by Tomlinson M. Holman, who helped develop the Lucasfilm THX sound system used, most famously and (arguably) most effectively in the Star Wars films.

Then last year at IDFA she learned about the full-dome community, "and I got really into it, and was fascinated by this concept," she explained at the DocLab 2020 online opening.

"When we think of the sound of space I realised that people who haven't even seen Star Wars have some of those sounds already in their mind when they are imagining what the sound [outside] the world is like," says Shogaolu. So for her Planetarium project she conducted research into how indigenous cultures imagine the sound of life beyond Earth, and to relay her findings within the dome extravaganza.

The result is an audio and a visual experience, using sound archive sourced from TV and film across the globe, and with projections that takes the viewer on a trip into space as it's seen from different points on Earth.

"Of course when the pandemic happened...I thought it would be a really cool opportunity to be able to travel around the world through the stars and to take in the sound design of these films from around the world, and build something off of the archival sound," she explains of the project's development and creation during 2020. Project notes how underline the work "implicitly questions the predominant Western view of space."

24h Sunrise/Sunset v2 is a live multimedia installation by media artist Dries Depoorter (who makes installations, apps, and games dealing with themes such as privacy, artificial intelligence, surveillance, and social media) and singer-songwriter Shishani Vranckx.

In the work, for every sunset there is an antipodal sunrise as well, a fact that is vividly displayed on adjacent screens as unsecured surveillance cameras from around the world show the orb's emergence and decline. A simple readout indicates where in the world the images are coming from, and at what time.

The visuals are accompanied by a soundtrack composed by Shishani Vranckx, whose work is influenced by contemporary African, Afro-American, and Western European music traditions. "The music is inspired by the idea of the constant cycle in nature, symbolised by the sunrise and sunset as highlighted in Dries' work," Shishani told SeeNL. "The music seeks a way to highlight the constant flux of the constant downward and upward flow, as well as the overlap; areas where there is no clear cut rise or fall. And the tension and release this gives."

In the performative VR experience Symbiosis, set in a future 200 years hence and created by the collective Polymorf, each "player" becomes one of various creatures: a fusion of either human and animal, or human and technology. In this future there is no competition, only symbiosis. It is a shared habitat and all the resources, bodies and information that it contains are also shared. How does hybridization with other creatures affect us as humans? And what philosophical, legal, emotional, or physical consequences might this fusion have?

In the notes for the project, Polymorf's Marcel van Brakel stresses how, "for the brain, the world is a permanent multi-sensory experience. By translating VR into an embodied and multi-sensory experience, it becomes more human-centred, more intimate, more intuitive, more emotional and more immersive. The body is no longer just a recipient of a designed mediated experience, but also the medium that is used. The experience is partly designed in the body itself."

In Ali Eslami's Eclipse we are offered a VR that challenges our existentialist views and attitudes. In the work, two characters, Alless and Lena move around within the universe at such different levels of consciousness that all they can find are traces of each other's presence. But by following and analysing these traces, they can decode the thoughts and feelings of "the other." It is a challenging and highly imaginative concept.

"Daring to imagine new worlds is vital to help us avoid falling into ideological traps and warns us about dangerous bends ahead," says Eslami. "VR more than any other subset of technology narrows the gap between fiction and the real, [it is] cataclysm on steroid! Almost similar to lucid dreaming, for me, a good VR experience is like a dream that is hard to forget, one that exposes me to the unknown, one that is hard to unsee."

"I think that's what I strive to explore in my own work and encounters through this medium," he adds.

Meanwhile in Paradocs, Miguel Peres dos Santos' Geographies of Freedom is described as a compilation of archival footage and images of the current landscape on Curaçao that lays bare the painful historical relationship between the oil refineries of Dutch multinational Shell and the inhabitants of the Netherlands Antilles.

Developed with Egbert Alejandro Martina notes for the project stress how, "it is a collaborative effort that explores the ways in which architecture, the law, and geography shape our understanding and experience of "freedom" [and] proposes that investigating how freedom has been imagined, theorized, and enshrined in the law can lead to a more critical understanding of geography and architecture's role in society.

For further reading: 
-> SEE NL Magazine Online, November 2020 / IDFA Doc issue 
-> Line-Up Dutch Docs At IDFA 2020 
-> Watch: Showreel Dutch Documentaries IDFA 2020


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