Directors Lounge 2008 • Berlin, february 7-17

Tuesday, February 12

Critical Audience Overflow

Holger Ernst The House Is Burning 97 min, 35mm, 2006

(JB) Sunday evening is Tatort time in Germany, and thus it felt appropriate that the Directors Lounge (in collaboration with Rote Loge (pK)) was showing a full feature film – Holger Ernst's “The House is Burning” yesterday. While it was obvious that Ernst was trying to pull a Guillermo Arriaga Hyperlink cinema thing with his depiction of US suburban youths, it indeed reminded me of a good Tatort episode minus the crime case, though. Don't get me wrong – while produced for TV, Tatort films often have production values and scripting far above German mainstream cinema, and The House is Burning had this very brand of brilliant cinematography and some terrific actors (we watched the film in the German-language dubbed version, and I wonder how the slang works out in the original). Nevertheless, it also shared the tragic inevitability which oozes from many recent Tatort episodes, in which basically everyone is unemployed and suffers from a variety of abuse issues, and eventually ends up dead. There is a subtle pedagogic undertone in this kind of detached and analytic view on the hopeless & wasted which makes me somehow suspicious; I'll rather stick with Danny Boyle, Lukas Moodysson or Anders Thomas Jensen for my fix of the decline of western society. But I suppose that's not where Holger Ernst is heading, anyway, so let's just look out for his and the House is Burning's crew's next films. I surely wouldn't mind another good Tatort coming along.

Holger Ernst The House Is Burning 97 min, 35mm, 2006

Then, Second Life, with live screenings of shows by the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse, the Sparring Philosophers at the ZKM, and a performance by Second Front. I have some objections to SL in general. First of all, there is the political issue of creating a virtual and allegedly free world around the concept of real estate, which, as some of you might remember, is the most obvious and archaic embodiment of capitalism and class society. So, anyone trying to sell you SL as a democratic and open community should be considered as a pawn of the neo-liberal agenda. My real problem with SL, though, is that it brings us back to the dark era of POV-Ray computer graphics; I really don't understand why anyone should care to invest time in building low-poly, badly textured environments in, wait, 2008. It's not that you have to buy Maya or something; just fork out a couple of bucks for Half-Life 2 with the included developer's tools and voilà, there's Frank Lloyd Wright's Kaufmann House with decent shading and less clipping issues.

Avatar Orchestra Metaverse

I do understand that there is the whole community aspect in SL which you can't replicate that easily in commercial game engines. The three concerts and two art events we saw yesterday were performed by various players from supposedly all over the world, so there is a measure of spontaneous self-organisation that can be achieved through SL, it being both a community platform and a scriptable 3D games engine. Still, for the uninitiated viewer, it seems hard to discern if the ongoings during a SL performance are effects of a complex script, a real-time interaction between the players or just a bug in SL's engine; the music we heard yesterday might very well have been produced live by a single guy with a laptop, and not an on-line collective. In fact, the thing that strikes me as most interesting within VR arts is the possible deliberate misuse of the given technologies, like the phenomenon of the frame rate crashing due to crowding (so, you might outright kill a performance by simply attending it) – but perhaps this might be even more effective within even more bluntly commercial and restrictive on-line environments, like World of Warcraft or one of the Battlefield games; this would manifest the neoist spirit – which I do sense in many VR performance concepts – in a far more pronounced way. And yes, it might even look better.

Cheers, JB