Stefaan Decostere on WARUM 2.0

Stefaan Decostere, author of the installation arena WARUM 2.0, explains his work.

WARUM 2.0 is an installation arena, an installation of installations, where nothing is limited to what is, but is constantly doubled into something else. It is a tragic space, in which no event can stand for real, in which nobody can merge with for longer than the time it takes to escape, in which words, sounds, things and images happen in a constant state of suspense.

The starting idea of WARUM 2.0 was ambitious from the start, as it wanted to create an environment in which viewers would spend more time and start thinking about technology and relate to the documentary images processed by it. The installation wanted to make possible personal experience with media, instead of just offer presentation, information and interpretation. Ultimately, it wanted to invite the visitors to experience and deal with the phenomenon of impact, and not just create it.

In this environment, technological per se, Paul Virilio was invited with some of his warnings against 'impact', against the makers of it, against their techniques of 'storytelling' and against the very renewed possibility of 'synchronizing affects' on a massive, if not global scale.

So there it is, WARUM 2.0, a complex of projection screens installed on four centrifugal curves spreading out in a dark space of two hundred square meters around a suspended 360° panorama, all transparent. Many visitors walk through it. They take in viewing positions and try to relate to the projected images, discovering the many look-throughs and superpositions. The installation employs and displays the interface of an automatic scanning system that translates their movements into parameters, instantly changing the positions of the projected pictures. There is a dynamic sensor round sound system of shooting, bombing and crying. At one instance the voice of Paul Virilio can be heard; at another, the shrieks and shouts of battle of assaulting marines on some exercise mission in a real desert. Visitors handle the joystick of a networked surveillance camera and grab views and pictures of their friends, unaware or waving back and smiling in the camera lens attached high up to the ceiling. Three cutouts in a huge human Tetris wall sculpture invite visitors to take in and mimic positions of falling victims or shooting soldiers while activating sensors, interacting and playing with the footage of more training soldiers in combat. Other visitors teleport their hand live into a double of WARUM 2.0 on Second Life, while a robot hand steers an avatar around and about falling pictures of war victims, also on display in the physical arena. With laptops on a long access point to the Web, more visitors add the YouTube video of their own choice to the overall projection. From every side faces of war victims stare at the public. They were all personally shot by cameraman Daniel Demoustier at Darfur, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Kosovo and Haïti, again and again, during his missions for Doctors without Borders and ITN news.

As for war and technology, nothing really changed in essence. One could say, there is just more war, more technology and there are more victims. But what changed really, because of technology, is the way we relate to war and to pictures of victims, and to the documentary image as such. New media changed all that. Precisely for this reason, Warum is called WARUM 2.0 because it reflects on and challenges the notion of 2.0. Over the years it has become clear to me that 2.0 is kind of a fraud, at least if one understands it as I did as a situation of 'user made content', instead of what it is: 'user driven impact'.

With WARUM 2.0 and possibly along its further installments and developments in the future, I hope to facilitate and help focus critical reflection on media and the techniques of impact. A horizon for public experiment, with technology, where there is no need to hide.

Paul Virilio: "Today, faced with what's happening in science and knowledge in general, not only science but philosophy too, political philosophy, we need people who are not afraid of tragedy but who interpret, analyze, dissect, talk about things. It's the opposite of story telling. It's something much more modest and in my opinion more useful today than grand spectacles".

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