Thursday the 19th February, I went to listen to an interview at the Goethe Institute between the filmmaker Harun Farocki and artist Kodwo Eshun. Harun screened a rough-cut of a work-in-progress entitled Immersion. Immersion is based on a first-person shooter games engine developed by the US military to train troops for service in Iraq.
Clunky graphics pan, track and zoom to reveal pixilated deserts, palm trees, 'arab' avatars, explosions, smoke and ruined buildings. The games-engine, with head mounted display and (plastic) XM8 interface has been released to a consortium of software engineers and psychotherapists. Cut to a therapist. The therapist is using the software to lead a traumatized soldier back, back to a scene of explosion, mutilation and death, back to site of their trauma.
Its harrowing. But then, through hammy acting and a burst of applause the soldier is revealed as another therapist, role-playing a traumatized trooper at a sales convention. The therapists are selling the software (and method) back to the military as a theraputic tool. Layers of play and simulation reverberate around the scene of death and trauma.
During the Q & A session, a member of the audience adds another layer, similar software is being used to recruit potential soldiers at military roadshows touring the depressed midwestern USA.
Early films of Harun Farocki were screening at the Cubitt Gallery Including the stunning Inextinguishable Fire (1969, 16mm, 25 min.) about the material economy of Napalm production.
Kodwo Eshun is part of the Otolith Group whose A long Time Between Suns is currently installed at Gasworks