Arts

Welcome to the machine: Vincent Morisset's top five interactive art projects

CBC Arts loves Vincent Morisset's latest interactive film, Way to Go, so much we featured it on the latest episode of Exhibitionists. But what digital projects capture his imagination? The Montreal artist shares his Top 5 picks.

Experience them all for yourself!

Because Vincent Morisset's interactive films always blow our minds, we asked the Montreal artist to share some of the digital projects that capture his imagination. (Facebook/Vincent Morisset)

Ever since Vincent Morisset directed Arcade Fire's Neon Bible — which is the world's first interactive music video, by the way — the Montreal artist has been pushing the definition of what digital art can be. That's all part of his mission (as you may have read when CBC Arts interviewed him last week).

Morisset is out to change attitudes, to "legitimize" digital projects as true works of art that are "not derivative of any other form of expression."

"It's baby step after baby step," says the filmmaker, "but it's through my personal projects that I can make you see."

Not to mention recommending other artists' work. So many interactive projects have blown Morisset's mind the same way his film, Way to Go, blew ours, so we asked him for his top five recent favourites. Experience them for yourself!

Marietta Ren. Still from Phallaina, 2016. (Marietta Ren)

Phallaina

We scroll through stories all the time, but never like this.

Phallaina, an app from French illustrator Marietta Ren, is the world's first fully "scroll-able" graphic novel — one continuous comic-strip fantasy illustrated without panels, and incorporating an interactive soundtrack.

The story follows a young woman named Audrey. She has seen visions of whales since childhood, and soon after we meet her, a doctor discovers something strange. Audrey is a medical anomaly, capable of holding her breath for unusual periods of time — a handy talent considering her world is flooded by rising oceans.

Morisset discovered the Phallaina app the day before chatting with CBC Arts, and he raved about the "super simple" yet game-changing design. "You're swiping pages, but everything feels right," he says of the reading experience, which takes about 90 minutes to enjoy.

In addition to the app, an IRL version of the graphic novel was a featured installation during the Angouleme International Comics Festival this past January. Spanning 115 metres, it will be staged again this April at La Ferme du Buisson in Noisel, France.

Sample screen from Lifeline. (Google Play)

Lifeline

The next text you receive could be a matter of life or death.

That's how Lifeline works. The brainchild of comics writer Dave Justus (Fables: The Wolf Among Us), the part short story, part video game project became an iTunes best-seller when it launched last year.

The premise will remind you of Choose Your Own Adventure books — or maybe just that recurring nightmare you've been having since watching Moon on Netflix — because here's how it starts: An astronaut named Taylor has crashed on the moon of an unknown planet. His (or her?) pod still has a functioning transmitter, and Taylor's only line of communication beams straight to you.

The story unfolds entirely via text message — with no photo or video attachments — as the space castaway asks for your help and advice. And it all plays out in real time, as your conversation unfolds over hours or days.

Morisset recently experienced the interactive adventure. "It short circuits your brain," he tells CBC Arts. "It's really a simple process but I like how it uses something from real life, texting. It really brings you quickly into an intimate relationship."

84.Paris. Still from Because Recollection, 2015. (84.Paris)

Because Recollection

Last month, Morisset won the 2015 FWA People's Choice Award for his film Way to Go. He pointed us to year's other FWA honouree, Because Recollection. Created for the record label Because Music by French ad agency 84.Paris, the website is a little like an audio-visual WABAC Machine, one that celebrates the label's 10th anniversary. Hit the spacebar, and the volume will surge, ultimately hurtling you towards a random page that focuses on a different artist on Because's roster. Interactive controls let you playfully explore the music, as album art comes alive for records by Justice, Django Django, Major Lazer, etc. 

Moniker. Still from Do Not Touch, 2013. (Moniker)

Do Not Touch

As Morriset says, this is "a fun one" for sure. Do Not Touch is a bit of a throwback; it's a music video of sorts for "Kilo," a song by the Dutch indie band Light Light. Released in 2013, this film was directed by the design studio Moniker, and it essentially crowd-sources its animated graphics by recording where you — and millions of other users — have pointed the cursor.

Instructions appear as the song plays, a little like a desktop version of Simon Says. Maybe you'll be asked to draw a smiley face on the screen. Will you follow the rules? That's totally your call, but looking at the cloud of 4 million+ pointer arrows that came (and clicked) before you, it's clear that rebels are definitely in the minority. 

Jonathan Harris. Still from Network Effect, 2015. (Jonathan Harris)

Network Effect

Can you wise up to the amount of time you're wasting online, by spending more time online?

You'll see when you experience Network Effect, an art project Morriset says is "damned complex."

Created by Jonathan Harris and Gregory Hochmuth, the website can only be viewed in instalments of a few minutes, the length based on the average life expectancy in your country of viewing. But whether you have five minutes or 10, what you'll experience upon arrival is a deluge of video and text-based information, sorted only by human behaviour.

Statistics, social-media feeds and more are paired with seemingly infinite playlists of YouTube clips that illustrate everything from eating and breathing to shopping or painting or grieving.

"It kind of highlights the emptiness of the internet through this overwhelming amount of data," Morisset tells CBC Arts. "Jonathan Harris is one of the few really genuine authors of interactive film, for me." In November, CBC Radio's Spark spoke with Harris about the work, and how it explores "the psychological effect of internet use on humanity."

What are your favourite interactive films? Find CBC Arts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and share your discoveries with us!

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