Among the thirty digital works accessible within this 28e edition, we styled the headphones to experience three of the most attractive.
We have the same giddy feeling in our stomachs tinged with nervousness that gripped us teenagers when we hit Luna Park’s brand new attraction. This particular excitement, as they have become cultural consumers, in the idea of accompanying a technological revolution in the process, before our eyes, of overturning the history of art. Virtual reality may have interfered with programming GIF eight years ago, the festival goer still wears the helmet, feeling a vertigo.
The lay user currently has neither the perspective nor the knowledge necessary to form a strong opinion about what he discovers. Instead of engaging his critical sense, he remains for the moment in the long-promised dive. Between the experience of leaving the body and the immersion in the heart of his perceptions, he oscillates, in an emotional imbalance conducive to metaphysical boasting. Description, then, of the three odysseys that navigate between exterior and interior, proposed, all sections combined, within the framework of 28e Geneva International Film Festival.
“Evolver”, until November 13 at the town hall of Plainpalais
Presented as a European premiere under the auspices of Highlights, this audiovisual installation by collective Marshmallow Laser Feast (US/GB/F) and co-produced by director Terrence Malick, among others, explicitly blurs the boundaries of the human body. During an introductory audio yoga session, the six initially admitted participants lie on a chaise longue, headphones in their ears and a black blindfold around their eyes. Isolated in this way, they are completely absorbed by the backstabbing emitted by their high-tech seat and the primal – albeit high-level – sounds of leaks, crosswinds and flying chords that Cate Blanchett’s voice marks with comments between science and poetry: fascinating.
The Australian-American actress continues to pour her honey into the eardrums of the spectators as they are fixed on the revolving benches arranged in the next room, on the second stage of the ride. “evolve”. Now attached to their controllers and their VR headsets, they launch into an infinity traversed by a host of suspended particles—infinitely tiny cells or immeasurable stars. On the horizon, they can see none to the north, south, or sides of their field of vision. A vital breath, sometimes airy, sometimes liquid, permeates the space in which they float under the music of Jonny Greenwood, Meredith Monk or Jon Hopkins.
“Between the experience of leaving the body and diving into the heart of their perceptions, the spectator oscillates, prey to metaphysical eavesdropping.”
Because everything affects everything in this fractal universe, everyone can disturb the oxygen flows with hand controllers. Don’t worry: no one else will notice, and the cosmic breath will resume, which unites terrestrial animals and plants. In this landscape where tree branches and human bronchi, but also twigs and blood vessels are equivalent, the narrator still whispers: “Somewhere in this waterfall, it’s you.” Here is summed up in a formula the strange loneliness felt throughout this virtual meditation with planetary goals.
“Les Aveugles” until November 13 at the ADC hall, 2 o’clocke Rütli floor
Theatrical immersion, here, limited this time to twelve participants seated in a carousel-like circle. The fiction of the Invivo collective, revealed here for the first time outside of France, establishes its scenography even before it goes digital: a metal structure in the shape of a spider, at whose feet oak leaves are spread on white paper. From the beginning, we know that nature and its forests will again play a big role in the hybrid representation. A mysterious and threatening nature, in front of which man is struck by blindness.
Julien Dubuc and his team stay true to the text of “blind” written in 1890 by the Belgian playwright Maurice Meterlinck. Six actors and actresses whisper from different sources into your ear, while a 3D mesh landscape unfolds its 360° interlaced reliefs of white flashes around your retina. You belong to this small fraternity of visually impaired people taken out of their hostel and lost in the middle of nowhere. For each compass they only have the visit of a dog and the corpse of the priest who until then served as a guide.
In an environment that oscillates, expands or collapses in an ontological noise, their fears are easily communicated. More fully than from a real scene, perceived in the room by the bodies lined up side by side? If the expectation of death in icy air formally needs digital support, the suspicion remains of a blind friend who surrenders to leave the experience. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the marketing argument and the artistic justification,” he dares.
“Eurydice, A Descent Into Infinity” until November 13 at Plainpalais Town Hall
However, no hesitation in terms of“Eurydice. A descent into infinity», the most surprising VR breakthrough we’ve seen this year. Indeed, the proposal of the very young Dutch designer Céline Daemen is entirely based on the interaction she expects from her viewer. This is a single cable, slipper foot, right in the middle of a square perimeter, empty except for the gravel that lines the ground. He does not know yet that he will pierce its surface to sink deeper and deeper into hell.
This is because his lonely journey is inspired by the myth of Orpheus, descending into the realm of the dead in pursuit of his beloved Eurydice. In this operatic version, a thousand miles from Monteverdi, the haunting voice of Sterre Konjin (to a libretto by Charlotte van den Broeck and a composition by Kate Moore) asks the participant to follow the beautiful deceased. The time it will take to join him in the abyss will determine the duration of the immersion process, on average half an hour.
The infinity mentioned in the title is not expressed here by a boundless flight line, but rather by the omnipresence of divisions. Following the footsteps of the silhouette in front of you, you weave your way through endless sloping corridors. Between the dark walls of the tomb building that imprisons you, you outline concentric quadrilaterals that can amuse any helmetless person who passes this corner of the communal hall dedicated to the Virtual Territories.
The labyrinth of corridors creates openings in its walls. Lean over a balustrade and you will contemplate the path traversed by the fresh air as the one left to travel to the magma. Calling the void will make your head spin. In fact, fear will win you over. But why are you reluctant to go straight through these walls? Aren’t they virtual after all? Are you really in danger of falling? Is nothing threatening to kidnap you? Here we touch on the power of exercise, when illusion prevails over matter and chimera over reason. VR imposes its own physical law, which we obey with complete obedience.
Geneva International Film Festivaluntil November 13, www.giff.ch
Katia Berger is a journalist in the culture section since 2012. She covers current events in the performing arts, especially through reviews of theater or dance, but sometimes also deals with photography, visual arts or literature.More information