VIENNA SHORTS: Two short documentaries from Vienna Shorts representing two distinct sides of the modern human experience, one digital and one all too real.
Neil Young
Young is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: June 12, 2019

«Cyberspace», as William Gibson defined in his seminal science-fiction novel Neuromancer, is «a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters, and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding…»

Gibson’s book was published in 1984 when the word «cyberspace» would have been unfamiliar even to the majority of his readers. Spool forward to 2019—a plausible juncture for early-80s speculative fiction to be set, where for billions, it is the place (as Gibson also put it, famously) where banks keep your money, where emails are exchanged, where social-media proliferates — is in effect as much a part of their daily lives as the actual physical environment.


The myriad liminal zones where cyberspace and reality intersect, meanwhile, have developed some bizarre and even hazardous anomalies. One particularly troubling fault-line is imaginatively probed in Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis’s Swatted, a 21-minute artistic documentary which premiered at the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam (IDFA) last November, and whose quality has been recognised at numerous subsequent events around the festival circuit.

For billions around the world, cyberspace is in effect as much a part of their daily lives as the actual physical environment.

Swatted, seemingly «filmed» without a camera in the traditional sense, is primarily comprised from two sources: found-footage from internet streaming-sites (in which multiple gamers experience, view and comment upon their shared play) combined with dreamy, hallucinatory «Machinima» animations created by manipulating the software of the popular 2013 computer-game Grand Theft Auto V. The latter conjures spindly quasi-cities populated by militarised cops: SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) divisions engaged in gravity-defying patrols.

Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis (b.1988) made the film at Le Fresnoy, a French film-school notably open to experimental and radical approaches. He plunges us into the world of «swatting»: an elaborate, dangerous offshoot of cyber-bullying by which gamers surreptitiously obtain their rivals’ addresses and then …

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