Remember i was telling you about "Anti Anti Utopia", the talk that Vicky Messi gave at the FILE festival symposium a week ago? She was highlighting media art projects from Latin America that 'look beyond anti-utopia.' The first work she presented was Arcángel Constantini's Nanodrizas, a fleet of "flying" saucers deployed in polluted waters to clean them up.

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A second brilliant project she mentioned was Ciudad Nazca / Nazca City, a land art project in which a robot draws a true scale map of an imaginary city onto the surface of the Peruvian desert.

Artist Rodrigo Derteano's autonomous robot plows the desert ground to uncover its underlying, lighter color, using a technique similar to the one of the Nazca lines, the gigantic and enigmatic geoglyphs traced between 400 and 650 AD in the desert in southern Peru. Guided by its sensors, the robot quietly traced the founding lines of a new city that looks like a collage of existing cities from Latin America.

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Nazca monkey, Peru

Because of the city would extend over several squared kilometers, the map can only be appreciated as a whole from certain a height by means of airplanes or satellite imaging. Just like the Nazca lines.

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The project invites to reflect upon the explosive urbanization of the deserts of the Peruvian coast, taking place since the middle of the last century, and its consequences on environmental sustainability and the quality of living.

I asked Rodrigo to talk to us about Ciudad Nazca:

Hello Rodrigo! What is the motivation behind the project? During her presentation at FILE, Vicky mentioned the spectacular growth of the city of Lima and the need to find new ways of designing and envisioning cities, maybe by building them in the desert. Can you expand on this?

I live and grew up in Lima. About 60% of the city today lies within the desert, most of it grew without any serious urban planning. It's a self-made metropolis, the second largest city built in the desert after Cairo. It grew from 1 million to 8 million people in less than 60 years. There's a lot of problems derived from this development in terms of sustainability and living standards which exacerbate the huge inequality of our society. The desert plays a big role in this regard. People living in desert areas of the city are usually poor and often have to pay more for water than those living in more centric (richer) areas. They also lack proper infrastructure and have much less public places and parks. For a long time, these areas were not considered part of the city by the ruling class and the authorities until they became the majority.

By drawing a gigantic map of a city onto the desert, the project not only seeks to draw attention to this facts, but questions our very concept of city, specially in regards to its environment. Lima is a sort of negation of the desert. Our model and ideal of city is very occidental, and does not adapt very well to its context. The desert is seen a kind of non-place, not a part of our living environment. In this sense, there's a sort of irony in using a robot to draw a city onto the desert, as if it would be drawing it on the surface of Mars (exploring the outer space for the possibility of urban life).

I'm also fascinated by the Nasca people and their lines (200 BC - 600 AD). Studying theories about them, I found their notion of desert as ritual space, and therefore an expansion of their living space, to be in sharp contrast to our notion today. Some see the Nasca lines as cult to fertility and life in the desert, trying to communicate beyond. In this sense, Nasca City is kind of a cult to urban life in the desert today, not communicating beyond, but within our society...

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I was also interested in the cities you selected for the final collage. How did you chose them? Why Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro rather than Sao Paulo? Why Bogota rather than Medellin for example?

The project required an interdisciplinary group of people working together to make it happen. In regards to the design of the city we worked together with the Latin American architecture collective Supersudaca, represented by the 51-1 architecture studio in Lima. The collective proposed to do a real scale collage of pieces of the 10 largest cities in Latin America (Sao Paulo is included). They would overlap at the borders creating new urban forms and zones of conflict. The idea was to create a map of mixed references, city patterns already charged with meaning, that people would be able to recognise, compare, and understand the scale of the drawing according to their own real life experience.

Why 10? Well, they like to put up simple rules. The cities pieces were put together conserving their relative geographical position and original orientation.

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The city drawn in the desert is ephemeral is that correct? Isn't it disheartening to dedicate so much energy and see the city being slowly erased by the wind and other natural elements?

Sometimes I also find it disheartening, but most of the time I think it is ok for it to be slowly erased by the wind. The lines loose the sharp contrast with the surface in a couple of weeks, but the relief will be visible for years. I don't know if I would find the drawing and whole action equally meaningful in, let's say, 20 years. The desert is quite a special place for me, and I had my thoughts about leaving permanent marks that large on its surface.

For it to stay forever, we would have had to do it in a terrain with almost identical conditions as in Nasca, which is a protected area classified as world heritage by UNESCO. We would have ended in jail for sure, if we had done it over there. Which brings me to question number 5...

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How long did it take to draw the whole city and did you have to stay near the robot constantly to monitor its work?

The drawing took 5 days (4 under ideal conditions). We had to rescue the robot sometimes and had some problems, but most of the time, it would do fine by itself.

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Did you need to obtain special permits to do this piece of land art or can anyone do anything they fancy in the desert?

In theory, you can't do what you want in the desert (in Peru), unless you own it. And even then, you'll have to do an official and quite expensive study certifying the absence of archeological rests. In a protected area like Nazca, it would be a serious crime (to destroy national heritage). We certainly could not buy up that amount of terrain (!!). But it is permitted to drive around in non protected areas, which also leaves marks. So there's kind of a gray zone. In practice, people exploit the landscape in all sorts of ways, but we wanted to go public with it. We had to make sure we could do it, or at least be prepared for the consequences. The local authorities were sympathetic to the project and we got an unofficial permit...

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Are you planning to repeat or show the project elsewhere in the near future?

The project is not completely finished, because there are lots of follow ups. Maybe I'll take on the topic in further projects or exhibitions. Maybe someday we repeat the drawing process, but it's quite a production and I have no concrete plans. There are no exhibitions planned at the moment, but I have a lot of material and would like to show it again.

Thanks Rodrigo!

And if you speak spanish, check out this interview that Vicky did with Rodrigo:

All images courtesy of Rodrigo Derteano.

Previously: Nanodrizas, "flying" saucers for polluted waters.

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Belated postcard from Sao Paulo.

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Image courtesy of FILE festival

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If you happen to be in or around Sao Paulo this Summer (or Winter, i was told it is Winter over here but super sunny and 25 degrees Celsius is no credible Winter to me) don't miss FILE, the Electronic Language International Festival that takes place at the FIESP Cultural Center and all over the Avenida Paulista till late August. And because FILE makes it its duty to attract the general public and not just the art&tech aficionados, the event is not only free but also packed with surprising installations, games, videos and events.

Here's a quick look at what the festival has in store! Part one, the installations!

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Hye Yeon Nam, Please Smile. Photo Julia Moraes

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Joon Y. Moon, Augmented Shadow. Photo Julia Moraes

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Kimchi & Chips, Journey Seoul. Photo Julia Moraes

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Lars Lundehave Hansen, Spiderbytes. Photo Julia Moraes

A new addition to the festival programme, FILE Tablet allows visitors to test and play with artistic applications on iPads:

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Photo Julia Moraes

And if ever you were wondering which works i found the most interesting (or downright disquieting):

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Lars Lundehave Hansen, Spiderbytes. Image courtesy of FILE festival

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Lars Lundehave Hansen, Spiderbytes (detail)

Spiderbytes, by Lars Lundehave Hansen, uses small clunky creatures to visualize sound. The spiders, made of speaker units mounted with graphite sticks and animated by low frequencies from 5 Hz to 50 Hz, imprint their marks on a white surface depending on the sound fed to them.
A smart twist on the classic drawing robots.

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Ryoichi Kurokawa, Rheo: 5 horizons. Installation view. Photo by JMAF

The most mind-blowing work for me was Ryoichi Kurokawa's Rheo: 5 horizons, a 5 screen audiovisual installation in which each vertically long imagery pairs with each mono channel sound, and each video is synchronized to each audio. These juxtaposed resonances have an impact on sensory perception, which develops a similar synesthetic experience.

The title quite fittingly derives from the expression of Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus "panta rhei", which means "everything is in a state of flux". If you want to know more about it, the blurb is over here but i didn't need it to be won over by the piece. Not sure the video will convey much of its

But somehow, i felt that the winners of this edition of FILE were the works showing little or no technology. I already mentioned ADA - analog interactive installation but there were more surprises in store. Such as Shrink, Lawrence Malstaf's dependable crowd-pleaser...

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Lawrence Malstaf, Shrink. Image courtesy of FILE festival

Or the irresistible Máquina/brinquedo. A pinball machine made by the Collective COLETORES using discarded materials: wood, rubber and some human propulsion.

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Collective COLETORES, Máquina/brinquedo. Image Collective COLETORES

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Collective COLETORES, Máquina/brinquedo (detail)

Other works which might be of interest:

The Happy Cube, by Julian Jaramillo, is happy because it doesn't need any wire nor connection to a laptop to play music. Flipping the cube on one if its sides triggers a musical generative process which mixes both random tunes and sound material previously composed.

Ijiro "the robot which expresses emotions reacting to a user's actions" made me rather uncomfortable. Ijiro isn't able to move itself because it doesn't have any actuators. It's just the face of a man stuck inside what looks like a tiny version of a can of Pringle's. It does look alive and its/his face starts smiling, sulking or displays other types of emotions as someone who doesn't have the misfortune of being trapped inside a can of potato chips touches it, or makes the tube lie, stand, swings it, if you make it roll or hang it. He can even talk but I felt sorry for him/it, really.

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Kazushi Mukaiyama and Yujiro Kabutoya, IjiroPhoto Julia Moraes

Its creators, Kazushi Mukaiyama and Yujiro Kabutoya, developed Ijiro as a physical pet to entertain people.

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Ben Jack, Elucidating Feedback. Photo Julia Moraes

Elucidating Feedback, by young media artist Ben Jack, is a brain-controlled installation. The brain-computer interface reads your brainwaves and this alters how the installation creates form from static. The more attention is paid, the more pattern is formed; as less attention is paid, the pattern breaks back into static.

And a last one for the road...

Yoshi Akai's Heart 'n' Beat is a musical instrument for three players. Insert the index inside a small leather ring and the instrumnet will take your pulse and use it as the basis for a tune. You can then add sound samples and play along to your own heart.

Seemed to work like a charm for everyone. Alas for me, i appeared to have no heart beat.

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Yoshi Akai, Heart 'n' Beat

Also part of the exhibition: ADA - analog interactive installation.
More images on my flickr set.

FILE, the Electronic Language International Festival remains open through August 21, 2011, at the FIESP Cultural Center - Ruth Cardoso, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Entrance is free.

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Every year, the FILE festival invites artists and other people who have a hands-on approach to new media art to share their views, works and ideas with the audience during a 4 afternoon long symposium. One of the most fascinating talks for me this year was the one that Victoria Messi, author of the fantastic blog El Pez Eléctrico, gave about media art projects from Latin America that 'look beyond anti-utopia.'

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Vicky Messi at the FILE symposium

Titled Anti Anti Utopia: Arte Eletrônica na América Latina / Anti Anti Utopia: Electronic Art in Latin America, the presentation introduced us to four projects by media artists who believe that art still has the power to transform society. I was planning to write a long post that contained her whole presentation but i thought it would be more fruitful to highlight the projects one by one. First of all because each of them is so clever, quirky and fascinating that it should have its own space. Secondly because i've just started The Leopard and as much as i'd like this Jo Nesbø gem to last as long as possible i can't stay away from the book more than it is strictly necessary for my mental well-being.

The first project Vicky Messa mentioned is Nanodrizas, a project that Mexican artist Arcángel Constantini has been working on since 2006.

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Shaped like small flying saucers, the Nanodrizas are floating autonomous robots forming a network of wireless sensors, which attempt to interact with biological elements. The robotic prototypes measure, in real time, the environmental conditions (temperature, pH scale, level of humidity, turbidity, etc.) of polluted water surfaces. The data collected is then transmitted via wireless communications for interpretation and analysis. Once to the level and nature of pollution has been identified, the nanodrizas directly intervene by emitting synthesized sound and releasing bacterial and enzymatic remedies in the eco-system that, ultimately, should regulate the quality of the water.

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Prototypes of the nanodrizas have been deployed in heavily polluted locations. In particular, in the river going through the city of Puebla in Mexico. Puebla hosts "La Constancia", an ex textile factory which used to be one of the most modern factories in Latin America. La Constancia relied heavily on water to function: water was used to power its turbines and water was where waste was then dispersed. As a consequence, the river is now suffering from high levels of pollution. The mission of the robots is therefore to intervene directly and revert the effect of the pollution in the water.

The Nanodrizas benefit from relatively sophisticated technologies but were made using discarded materials such as children's toys.

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First prototype, 2006

The work thus moves beyond other environmental tactical media interventions by making an attempt to be actively therapeutic. The work will also functions to alert and sensitise people to the situations via, in the first location, the sound emissions of the Nanodrizas and second via displays in exhibition centers and online.

The project thus exemplifies an admirably holisitic kind of art practice which is simultaneously technologically well informed and technologically inventive, while being engaged with complex social histories and activist with respect to fundamental problems of our time.

Check out this interview that El Pez Eléctrico had with Constantini about the Nanodrizas fleet. I'd recommend watching it even if you don't understand spanish because you will not only see the nanodrizas in action but you will also be able to listen to the artist's melodious Mexican accent.

Related: Nomadic Plants by Gilberto Esparza.

FILE, the Electronic Language International Festival remains open through August 21, 2011, at the FIESP Cultural Center - Ruth Cardoso, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Entrance is free.

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Quick introduction words about the FILE, the Electronic Language International Festival that takes place in São Paulo this Summer. As usual, the event mixes and matches immersive installations, animations movies, performances, machinimas, besides works of web art, documentary, and other goodies you expect from this ambitious new media art festival. This year, however, i've been particularly blown away by the least techy works in the exhibition.

I'll come back to them in the coming days in a more generous report but i'd like to kick off my reports from the festival with a short post about ADA - analog interactive installation, by Karina Smigla-Bobinski.

ADA is a huge helium-filled ball trapped inside a room. Its surface is spiked with charcoals that leave marks on the white surface of the walls, ceilings and floors as it bounced from one side of the room to the other.

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Visitors might want to put the ball in action by pushing it into one direction or the other but after that, the way the ball sketches on the white surface is mostly autonomous, no matter how hard you strive at controlling its movements.

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As art critic Arnd Wesemann wrote: It is a movement experienced visually, which like a computer make an unforeseeable output after entering a command. Not in vain « ADA» reminds of Ada Lovelace, who in 19th century together with Charles Babbage developed the very first prototype of a computer. Babbage provided the preliminary computing machine, Lovelace the first software. A symbiosis of mathematics with the romantic legacy of her father Lord Byron emerged there. Ada Lovelace intended to create a machine that would be able to create works of art, such as poetry, music, or pictures, like an artist does. «ADA» by Karina Smigla-Bobinski stands in this very tradition, as well as in the one of Vannevar Bush, who build a Memex Maschine (Memory Index) in 1930 ("We wanted the memex to behave like the intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain"), or the Jacquard's loom, that in order to weave flowers and leaves needed a punch card; or the "analytic machine" of Babbage which extracted algorithmic paterns.

FILE, the Electronic Language International Festival remains open through August 21, 2011, at the FIESP Cultural Center - Ruth Cardoso, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Entrance is free.

From what i've seen the other week in Sao Paulo, FILE, the International Festival of Electronic Language, is extremely popular with the broad public. It's easy to understand why. The event is not only free, it also offers extremely good works and mainstream entertainment (a few pieces even manage to be both). Some works delighted me, others made me want to dedicate this blog to Ukrainian cuisine (which is actually very good.) But that happens with most media art festivals i attend.

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Far from being confined to the stern white walls of the Sesi Paulista's cultural space, FILE has also invaded the whole Paulista Avenue with animations, artistic interventions, interactive installations and screening. They wait for passersby in bookstores, subway stations, buses or on the facade of the buildings.

Just a few shots from FILE PAI - Paulista Avenue Interactive before i focus on the main exhibition:

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VR/URBAN, SMS Slingshot

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Rejane Cantoni & Leonardo Crescenti, Piso

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Rejane Cantoni & Leonardo Crescenti, Infinito Ao Cubo / Infinite Cubed

Unlike many of similar art and tech festivals in Europe, the FILE exhibition doesn't have a theme, its main objective is to showcase and promote some of the most exciting artistic productions in the field of electronic and digital arts. The sound installations were outstanding. My little round-up of the exhibition will try to do them justice. If you'd like to discover more of them, head to the Electronic Sonority section of the FILE Prix Lux website.

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Jonas Bohatsch's v+ (expanded timecode vinyl) is a seemingly blank record. Sound and animations emerge when its needle hits one of the light forms projected onto the vinyl.

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More images

The artist describes his work as follows: vinyl+ tries to expand timecode vinyl, usually used for digital djing, with visual and interactive elements. This is accomplished by sending the turntables rotational speed and needle position to a processing sketch. This sketch then generates corresponding visual output on the surface of the vinyl itself.


Jonas Bohatsch, v+

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METROBANG, by Ricardo Brasileiro, turns the frequencies and noise from vinyl records into a sequence of synthesis of low and granular synthesis (i'm merely copy/pasting, to be honest i was amazed by the result but i'm not sure i understand fully the how and why.) Musicians can change speed, volume, pitch and other effects with the touch of the instrument and by changing disks. The frequencies of the disck are simultaneously displayed in ASCII format on the computer terminal.


Ricardo Brasileiro, Metrobang

Jörg Piringer created an application for iPhone & iPod touch that allows you to create and control different groups of tiny sound-creatures in the shape of letters. They have several kinds of behaviour, some being more aggressive or gregarious than others for example, that react to gravity or to each other and generate rhythms and soundscapes.


Jörg Piringer , [abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz]

From Dust Till Dawn, by Markus Decker, Dietmar Offenhuber and Ushi Reiter, is a dark room with a fluorescent glow and a broom up against a wall. Phonographs are playing back silent vinyl records. The fluorescent mist is actually made of particles of dust. As visitors move through the room, the particles swirl up and some of it accumulate in the grooves of the records and define a musical score. A carpet of monochromatic light visualizes the turbulence in the atmosphere and detects its ephemeral structures, which are directly linked to the noise generated by the dusty records. Over time, the physical impact of the interaction irreversibly consumes the interface and destroys the needles of the phonographs. (if dusty floors make you happy, check out The Dustbunnies, by Stijn Schiffeleers and Hendrik Leper from Boutique Vizique.)

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Robert Mathy's Light Frequency Fingertips is a musical instrument composed of four fingercaps which transform light frequencies emitted by the displays of mobile phones into acoustic signals that can be mixed and faded during live performances.

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Robert Mathy, Light Frequency Fingertips

The winner of the Interactive Art section of the FILE Prix Lux awards is Ernesto Klar with his installation Relational Lights.

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Ernesto Klar, Luzes relacionais / Relational Lights

The work turns the light setting into a organism that can both live on its own or interact with spectators when they enter the roon. When viewers are outside the active tracking area, the system dialogue with the space by extruding and morphing sequences of geometric light forms. As soon as visitors enter the projected light-space, a collective and participatory expression of space unfolds.


Ernesto Klar, Luzes relacionais / Relational Lights

Frame Seductions, by Pierre Proske, explores the concept of looking outside of the video frame by tracking the head movements of people in front of the screen. Only a static but very seducing image can be seen from the distance but as visitors come nearer and turn their head to the left or to the right the perspective of the video on the screen automatically follows their gaze, enabling them to access material that would otherwise be outside of the filming frame. Viewers can this discover quirky scenarios lurking in the sidelines: characters appear in several places at once, exit through doors to reappear elsewhere and sometimes give the viewer or each other quizzical looks.

This neat little video is much clearer than a description:


Pierre Proske, Frame Seductions

The media art festival brought the high brow and the low brow under the same roof. Enters Mood Tail, by Wei-Chieh Tseng. Do you really need me to elaborate on it?


Wei-Chieh Tseng, Mood Tail

I never paid much attention to the machinima genre so far. The FILE Machinima section of the FILE festival in Sao Paulo proved me how wrong i was. Many of the movies selected by Curator Fernanda Albuquerque de Almeida are indeed little gems. I'll just mention Wizard Of OS: The fish incident by Tom Jantol, a short based on Nikola Tesla's notes on his experiment with a mysterious antivirus device he named "The Wizard of OS" and Clockwork, by Ian Friar aka Iceaxe. Set in the totalitarian Republic of Britain, Clockwork tells the story of a police officer on a mission to track down an "undesirable".

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Image courtesy FILE festival

The movie that received most attention from both the public and the members of the File Prix Lux however is War of Internet Addiction, a machinima advocacy production that voices the concerns of the mainland Chinese World of Warcraft community. Although the machinima was created with WoW players in mind, the video strikes a chord with the broader public by pointing the finger to the lack of Internet freedom in the country and conveying a general feeling of helplessness.

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The main frustration of mainland Chinese WoW players is that the access to the game has been limited and interrupted for months because of a conflict between two government regulatory bodies. The video also denounces battles and issues that took place in China over the previous 15 months or so: electroshock therapy for purported internet addiction (the Health Ministry has mercifully asked for the treatment to stop); the government's attempts to enforce installations on all new pc sold in mainland China of the Green Dam Youth Escort filter; the competition between the county's primary game servers over licensing renewal rights, etc.

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Players are also tired of being stigmatized by mainstream media as 'addicts' because of their love of game or simply because they tend to spend hours in front of their computer. The character of the villain of the film, Yang Yongxin, is actually based on a psychiatrist who used shock-therapy to treat so-called "Internet Addiction."

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Within days of its release the 64-minute video was banned from a few video sites in China, but that didn't prevent the movie from becoming even more popular on-line than Avatar nor from winning the Best Video award in the Tudou Video Film awards for online films and animations in an awards ceremony that some see as China's version of Sundance. The machinima also received an honorable mention at FILE Prix Lux. Not bad for a zero budget film made in 3 months with the help of 100 volunteers who cooperated through the Internet.


Watch the full version on Warcraft movies

Warning! Many of the jokes, memes and references in War of Internet Addicition are hard to grasp if you're not familiar with Chinese net culture. Fortunately, a public document listing the background information has been posted posted online.

Interview with Corndog, director, script writer and coordinator of the movie, on WSJ.

See also: Homo Ludens Ludens - Gold Farmers.

Previous entries about FILE festival: Heart Chamber Orchestra, Scrapbook from the ongoing FILE festival and Feeding the Tardigotchi. The FILE exhibition is open until August 29, 2010. Address: Fiesp - Ruth Cardoso Cultural Center - Av. Paulista, 1313, São Paulo - Metro Trianon-Masp.

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