From Darkness

From Darkness, an interactive documentary about African refugees

The keyword for the Austrian art group goldextra is “experience.” The group presented its online multiplayer game Frontiers with a sentence that fed this idea: “Don’t just watch, experience the news yourself.” Frontiers had virtual recreations of spaces in the Sahara, southern Spain, and Rotterdam so that players could get familiar with the environments that formed the refugee’s journey. The virtuality of the videogame format acts as a surrogate experience for the player—the second-best thing to actually going to these locations and speaking to the people there firsthand. Goldextra’s latest game dives further into this idea. Called From Darkness, it’s an interactive documentary about the…

The Man Came Around

The Man Came Around is a political fable for our trying times

It seems fitting that I’m to write about The Man Came Around today. We’re going through a rare heatwave right now in the UK and a right wing government is currently wrestling us into a headlock. The Man Came Around is the total opposite: set in the frozen heart of an icy mountain, it tells the story of five exiles trying to escape a corporate democracy. It’s the first game from Brussels-based studio Pipette Inc, a politically-charged adventure game that will ask you to try and look after these exiles as best you can. Amid a wave of right wing…


UNICEF combines 500 photos of war victims to give the refugee crisis a face

It’s difficult to grasp the meaning of a global refugee crisis. For much of the world this mass displacement is a moment on a newscast, a headline to be skimmed, a statistic to move us, but only briefly. UNICEF’s Sofia is the latest attempt to give us a deeper understanding. Sofia is a 3D animated girl created using 500 images of actual children from places affected by conflict, such as Ethiopia and Ukraine. The campaign worked with Getty Images, animators who worked on Planet of the Apes, Tintin (2011), and Avatar (2009), and the marketing agency Edelman Deportivo to culminate these images into a…


3D scanned images capture the urgency of the refugee crisis

The refugees in London design collective Embassy for the Displaced’s video “Where the Land Meets Sea” are not moving; they have already moved. That is why they are on the island of Lesvos in Greece. They might want to keep moving, but they are stuck on Lesvos. That’s the problem. “Where the Land Meets Sea” conflates formal visuals and political points. Embassy for the Displaced used 3D laser scanners to capture models of scenes on the island. These scenes, rendered in black-and-white as often as in color, are not entirely lifelike yet they still represent—however incidentally—political realities. One cannot help…


Videogame architecture is failing the poor of the world

As an architect, Alejandro Aravena traffics in a sort of obviousness that only becomes apparent in hindsight. The Chilean’s best works gradually reveal themselves to be fundamentally explainable. This, one might argue, is a more compelling magic trick than the eternal mystery of how some of his colleagues’ wild creations remain standing; Aravena is Penn and Teller to the starchitect’s Houdini. Villa Verde in Constitución, Chile, is instructive in this regard. Completed by Aravena’s firm, Elemental, in 2013, the 484-unit housing development is composed of repeating peaked-roof forms. Beneath one side of each slope sits the interior of the home, walled…