Trusted Inter­actions

Acts of interfacing (ESR 4)

A cinematic voyage

Digital interfaces as we know them are changing. While they become increasingly simple and intuitive, the wider technological infrastructures underlying them emerge as ever more difficult to grasp and complex. Integral to our understanding of the intentional relations among a multitude of actors in a data-driven system, the interface comprises vital sites for investigation and reconfiguration. Employing the potential of the cinematic in what Alain Badiou has called “philosophical experimentation”, this ongoing exploration presents a series of filmic voyages into the general notion of interface and concrete acts of interfacing. Applying cinematic techniques that connect different spatialities and temporalities, the three short films Becoming River (2023, 15’), Interrail (2023, 10’), and Fever Factory (2023, 4’) document and reframe the meaning and effect of interfacing.  

An atmospheric portrait of Rotterdam’s eponymous waterway, Becoming River intertwines the verbal and the visual in search of a new appreciation of the contemporary riverscape. As we travel along the river Rotte from idyllic Moerkapelle to industrial Hoek van Holland, this experimental short film invites viewers to experience the physicality of water in motion through the eyes and ears – as well as keels and prows – of those that dwell within it. Punctuating the growing stream’s ineluctable seaward flow with an undulating chorus of lyrical voices, ranging from Homer and Hai Zi to Virginia Woolf and Alice Oswald, Becoming River paints a quietly celebratory picture of a river’s ability to resist human control and exploitation. 

Charting a train journey from the Netherlands to Sweden, Interrail confronts two opposing vistas: one is afforded by the constantly changing landscape as viewed through the window of the train in motion, the other, viewed from the moving body of the passenger, highlights moments of encounter with interfaces of all kinds, tangible and intangible. While the recording and editing processes constituted their own performance of interfacing, the resulting film emerges as yet another interface capable of generating new encounters. Revolving around different spatial axes and juxtaposing varied granularities of perception, the two-channel video installation invites poetic contemplation of interfaces in the surrounding world.  

Centered around the iconic modernist Van Nelle Fabriek in Rotterdam, Fever Factory tells the story of the commodification of things (what we, too often, hastily regard as mere “resources”), from the processing of coffee and tea in the 20th century to the storing of data today. The factory’s dual entanglement with extractive operations, both past and present, makes it an evocative site for considering capitalist consumption. Generating physical heat through its mechanical apparatuses, the factory at the same time becomes an emblem for the feverish activity of global capitalism. Visually situated between the literal and the metaphorical, Fever Factory offers a critique of postindustrial production leading to ecological harm.    

Ranging from the posthuman and the performative to the historical and planetary, this cinematic voyage enables the viewer to experience – and critically reflect on – diverse acts of interfacing. 

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