Trust my elastic reality : 10 inspirations from IDFA DocLab 16

After two days of DocLab festival, celebrating 10 years of high level curation, I go back to Paris with inspiration for the whole year. Collection of links and people to take care of, below.

Caspar Sonnen, creator of DocLab, in the closing session sunday nov 20th. Quote by Ben Decker. (photo : JR)

Instead of most places dealing with digital and interactive topics related to prospective or industry, DocLab keep going choosing sharp angles and overview problematics. Rather than panels about poor futurism with so-called experts dealing bullshit (“Is the VR a new horizon for cinema, documentaries, storytelling, videogames, nouvelle cuisine, waterpolo of whatever”), the Doclab interactive conference invites artists, architects, musicians, performers, producers, authors to present their artwork, and let the audience get inspired and influenced by itself. Each presentation is an opportunity to learn something new, and collide concepts or ideas between them.

This year banner was “Elastic reality”. In an article of Variety about Doclab, Caspar says :

“The internet has disrupted our physical reality in the same way that it stretched our notions of what it means to be a community, something that used to be mostly geographical. Nowadays, I’m part of a community. You’re part of a community. We’re all part of our own little community bubbles that we created ourselves. That’s quite far removed from where we were ten years ago. But at the same time, it’s been becoming more rigid. That’s something, for our ten-year anniversary, that we wanted to explore.”

More than that, the festival connects artwork to the public. Caspar says :

“Doing collective multi-user interactive and participatory experiences is something that’s been part of DocLab for the last ten years,” he continues. “That’s been one of the key things of our festival, of our program — to explore how we can take these usually very individual interactive experiences and turn them into a communal experience.”

These 10 years of digital creation are also an opportunity to remind a painful fact, that Alexandre Brachet, founder of Upian underlined in the opening session : “for the first time in 10 years, the budget in the public service broadcasters dedicated to the digital creation has decreased”. France has always been a proud representative of creation in DocLab, with Canada NFB. This year selection with numerous new comers from US or Africa are a sign that something change fast elsewwhere, and this is not the time to give up in the godfather’s countries.

So, after 48h spent in the dutch capital, here’s a short selection of links, refections, artwork and creators you can bookmark as you want.

1 / Dries Deporteer, belgian media artist, is here for the 3rd year, and still amaze the audience with the relevance of the combination of simplicity and political discomfort of his artistic approach.

A quick overview of his famous past projects :

  • Tinder In (where he create a collision between a profile pic in these 2 websites) has a new episode : a brazilan ad agency has made a copycat for a campaign for LG phone (using Getty images). No News for the moment of the payment of the 10 000 € bill he sent them
  • Jaywalking where a software automatically detects if the walkers cross at the red light, and propose the visitor a red button to send automatically a mail to the nearest police station a denunciation mail

With a unusual transparency before their release, Dries also shared unfinished projects, presented in a hilarious live session :

  • Die with me, a chat application you can only connect with if you have less than 5% battery. The only opportunity to say “hello, goodbye” to others fellows.
  • AirBnB host : a game using AirBnb API where you have to guess whose owner it is between 3, regarding the picture of the appartment.

The skill of Dries is to put together some isolated facts, and create an awareness from that meeting. This method is extremely relevant when he showed us a shameful promotion videoclip of a Isralian startup prentending detecting criminal humans by face recognition (I promise, this is a true video), and just after, he told us the experience of Fiona Moseley’s mother, whose intragram account has been suspended for posting a boob pic (in fact, a cake).

2/ Lauren McCarthy, artist and programer based in Los Angeles, was also the great sensation of this year, in the same filiation than Dries Depoorter or KyleMcDonald last year.

Here’s some of her amazing projects :

  • US+ (with KyleMcDonald) : a google hangout video chat app that uses audio, facial expression, and linguistic analysis to optimize conversations based on the Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC) database, and the concept of Linguistic Style Matching (LSM). The app displays a visualization, provides pop up notifications to each participant, and takes actions (like auto-muting) when the conversation gets out of balance. Hilarious.
  • Guiltless excuses, an app to manage the bad excuses you give to your friend, and not use one twice with the same people. In the same kind, Hell is the other people? an app based on Foursquare API to locate your friend and find the perfect way to avoid them properly.
  • Social turkers : Crowsourced relationships, where she uses Amazon Mechanical Turk (underpayed market place for hiring people for online basic tasks) to tell her how to behave on OKCupid dates.
  • Follower, selected for DocLab competition, provides you a follower for a day.
If you are selected, says the website, you are given an app to download, and you wait. You don’t know when it will happen. The following lasts one day. At the end, you are left with one photo of you, taken by your Follower. The Follower stays just out of sight, but within your consciousness.

Lauren was also presenting the exchanges she had with Apple Store team, where she had to convince that her app wasn’t violating the general terms of conditions, while comparing the approach to Sophie Calle’s The Detective in 1981 (when she asked her mother to hire a detective for follow her).

3/ Stupid Hackathon, stupid shit none needs, created by Amelia Winger-Bearskin invite us to jubilate with stupid ideas created in 24h collective work sessions. A process of hacking the hackathon trend that bothers more and more in the digital age bullshit. Here’s an open list of stupid thinks :

4/ African Digital Art, created by Jep Chumba (@digitalafrican), from Nairobi (Kenya). The site says :

“African Digital Art is a celebration of African culture of art, design and technology. The platform covers a wide range of artistic production from; audio/visual production, animation, interactive projects, web, film, graphic art and design.”
Jep Chumba presenting African Digital Art plaform (photo : JR)

Jep also mocking the western worshiping of technology and artwork (especially the wine consumption in vernissage…) and force us to face an obvious african modernity that we are no longer supposed to ignore.

I liked particularly Finding Fanon 2, by David Blandy and Larry Achiampong, inspired by the lost plays of Frantz Fanon, (1925–1961) uses the Grand Theft Auto 5 in-game video editor.

5/ Rem Koolhaas was also on stage :“Initially Lagos looks chaotic”, he said on his presentation of Lagos Wide & Close, online version af an interactive DVD of 2004 realised by Bregtje van der Haak, “but you can find a filtering system in this city, that recycles and rethinks things”. The web project he releases is an interactive journey into an exploding city, allows you to choose close or wide view, and your soundtrack.

6/ Another living legend, Bernie Krause (@berniekrause), electronic music pioneer (he introduced the synthetizer), and main artisan of the “soundscape” concept was presenting the website produced by Upian (only french project in competition this year) releasing next to the Fondation Cartier exhibition (untill january 8th 17)

For Bernie, “like instruments in orchestra, organisms express themselves in relationship to one another, competing or cooperating, with each voice evloving”.

7/ How, bullet point #7, it’s time to alk about ROBOTS ! Alexander Reben (@artBoffin), artist and engineer, is interested in human-machine relationships including how technology can be a lens with which to study humanity. He’s the guy who made Boxie, the story gathering robot, a process to make a movie entirely shot by small robots, using a childish voice to create empathy and conversation.

8/ Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the VR artwork of Ali Eslami, iranian artist, who create Death Tolls Experience, in order to resensitize the general public to the reality behind the abstract statistics on the hundreds of thousands of deaths in the Middle East. The friends who did it were really impressed, so this is something you should bookmark somewhere.

Talking about VR, I only saw one film, Flint Is a Place, by Zackary Canepari, part of a documentary project realized in this american city who became famous because of General Motors and Michael Moore. The film is good, but gave me the opportunity to feel one of the main problem of the VR business : the first feeling with a moving image with a VR set is wonder, the second is puke. May be I’m part of the human being suffering sea sick more than the others, but I had a bad feeling all the afternoon after this 20mn movie. My advice for future producers and authors : if your film is dealing with moving images, please stay under 10mn long…

9/ The Meat Puppet Arcade is on the most impressive and disturbing project. Created by Matt Romein and Joseph Mango, this installation make you interact with 3D bodies made from the artists’s real bodies with physical controlers, such as joysticks and pinballs triggers. In on of the 3 artwork, you can send dead-like bodies in a fun fair game that, to be honest, reminds you the images of Alain Resnais Nuit et Brouillard, with these bodies pushed by a loader.

Marc Romein presenting Meat Puppet Arcade (phot : JR)

The artists has released their digitalized their bodies online, if you want create your own content with it free of rights.

10/ Because I said 10, here’s one project I didn’t have the chance to experiment, but it is on line : clickclickclick, by Luna Maurer, Roel Wouters : “In a likeable, playful clickbait experience, you are rewarded for exploring all the interactive possibilities of your mouse.”

That’s all for today, see you next year !