Under Review

DOXA 2018: Virtually Absurd (Shorts Program)

Baby iPad + Deep Down Tidal + .TV + Pure Difference


Nick Jensen

The following is an advanced review of a shorts program screening at Vancity Theatre on Wednesday, May 9 at 8:30PM, as part of DOXA Documentary Film Festival running from May 3-13. 


The four short documentaries in the program, Virtually Absurd, seek to recontextualize the internet and technology. While technological advancement is often seen as positive, these shorts speculate on what’s happening behind the scenes and how our use of and dependence on technology affects our society. They use surreal aural and visual landscapes to critique “objective” sciences and their roles in the world.

Baby iPad, by local artist Tom Whalen, appropriates aspects of digital and online advertising to comment on the new cultural habit of letting screens amuse, distract and program children. The trust we put into products is a major theme in this short, as well as the shorts to come.

Deep Down Tidal explores some assumptions about the Internet. It focuses on how the internet, instead of being a grand equalizer, reflects social inequities and deepens power divides. The nostalgic and iconic net.art style that South African director Tabita Rezaire employs clashes with the anti-neocolonialist topics the minidoc explores.

.TV contrasts the fate of the internet domain .tv with that of its owner, the Polynesian island nation, Tuvalu. The island will be the first to sink under rising global water levels, but their domain will lived on, kept alive by its commercial value. This short’s stunning visuals document the beauty and sheer reality of Tuvalu, its people, and the lives and homes that will be destroyed by the rising tides driven by an unsympathetic, capitalistic world. It was made by U.S. director, G. Anthony Svatek.

Pure Difference disrupts how people see mathematics and numbers, assuming mathematical purity and ignoring the history of mathematics and power differentials. Directed by Vancouver-based artist and educator, Byron Peters, this short maps how those in positions of authority benefit from societal conceptions and misconceptions of data, computer science, statistics, etc.

Computer screens are easy to hide behind. These shorts reveal that technologies may seem innocent and completely neutral: blank slates for humans to use. However, they have histories, their creators have agendas, and they change who we are. Being aware of what we use and how we use it is ever more important as innovation accelerates and leads society into the virtual.