In SCI-Arc’s Master of Arts in Fiction and Entertainment one-year program, students work with world-renowned professionals in the worlds of film, fiction, animation, marketing, games, and documentary making to build new forms of creative practice.
It’s been nearly 40 years since the AI replicants of Blade Runner first walked the neon drenched streets of sci fi LA. Despite significant advances in technology however, narratives of human-like Artificial Intelligence spiraling out of control still permeate all forms of popular culture. In most of these stories AI means sentient robots with a consciousness that mirrors our own. Super soldiers, Sex bots, domestic help and humanoid machine laborers liberating us from work, fulfilling our desires, going places we fear to tread rising up, taking over and doing away with our outdated fragile bodies. In the imaginary worlds of Science Fiction, we have always explored the fears and wonders of AI technology. In this film we will explore contemporary representations of artificial intelligence in film, television, and global culture and with an ensemble of designers from the entertainment industry, scientists and technologists we will investigate where the science ends and fiction takes over.
We often design fictions as a way to come to terms with conditions that reality struggles to grasp. Where stories of imagined lands, help us to visualise alternative futures that sit outside of the ones that all too often feels inescapable. Such stories can transport us, often they are antidotes to an angry and broken world. Sometimes we tell stories to comfort us, to educate or empower us, to add mystery or to strip it away, to fall in love all over again or to scream with rage. We craft such tales because today such madness is the only way of staying sane.
Our perception of the world is largely shaped through the mediums of fiction.
‘Ferenj. A Graphic Memoir in VR’ was an official selection of 2020 South by Southwest Festival and 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. It has since been touring festivals internationally, including Worlding Worlds at Mu Gallery in Eindhoven, the Netherlands and Cleveland Film Festival. Ferenj is a VR film in which guests are invited to inhabit a point cloud dreamscape. Here, home is a postspatial experience that is extended within the nonspaces of history, language, culture, music, and time. Ferenj is an immersive graphic memoir representing key moments from the director’s own “tezeta,” getting lost in liminality, learning how to make sense of her Ethiopian-American identity in the diaspora. This afrosurrealist VR film is an experimental form of emancipatory thought and resistance to othering, using photogrammetry to reclaim these spaces in the director’s own terms and redefine the boundaries between fragmented memories and the digital imaginary.
FERENJ. A GRAPHIC MEMOIR IN VR Trailer by Ainslee Alem Robson (Fiction and Entertainment ‘19)
‘Vesak’ is a Buddhifuturist fiction built in a real-time game engine. The film is based on factual events of Buddhism Festivals that are reimagined in an alternative history. By developing a stylistic Techno-Chan aesthetic, the film explores the emergent relationships between technology and ritual against the backdrop of animism, nature and quantified spirituality.
VESAK Trailer by Ina Chen (Fiction and Entertainment 20)
‘Bare Bones’ is an animated story of interpreting, extending, and questioning what makes us human and what makes our environment. It is not a hazard of life, nor an accident, nor a product of the imagination, but a strange in-between. An experience of ending. An experience that cannot be attributed to anyone, because it belongs to no one person. To see your world suddenly collapse is to have to reinvent everything or surrender, to reclaim your life or end it, to reevaluate your beliefs or deny them.
BARE BONES Trailer by Meryem Lahlou (Fiction and Entertainment 20)
‘Where Turtles Fly’ is a third person indie game capturing the story of a young refugee boy who who has fallen over the side of a boat. He washes up on the shore of a city that doesn’t want him, and with just a phone, his only connection to his loved ones he begins a journey to find a new home. Created from 3D scans of Beirut, a city with the highest rate of refugees in the world relatively to its population, the young boy travels between fantasy and reality, traversing a surreal urban landscape of surveillance drones, watch towers and monsters of trash.
WERE TURTLES FLY Trailer by Andre Zakhia (Fiction and Entertainment ‘20)
Generously funded by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, “Our Automated Future: Science through Storytelling” takes a journey into a series of speculative futures crafted by students in SCI-Arc’s EDGE Fiction and Entertainment postgraduate program directed by coordinator Liam Young with program faculty Alexey Marfin.
What we think the world looks like is largely determined by fiction and entertainment—extraordinary shared languages through which we exchange ideas and engage with our environment. It is impossible to underestimate the importance of media in the production of culture.
BREACH follows an radical religious group composed of displaced wildfire victims as they reclaim the blaze through material sacrifice and BREACH is an artwork built within a game engine that speculates on the interdependence between technology, materiality, and wildfire in a climate change transformed future Southern California. rare earth rituals. “BREACH comes out of my own experience with wildfire, growing up in the foothills of Los Angeles-having been evacuated multiple times-and ironically, a few weeks ago, I was forced to grab the hard drives containing this project to escape the flame.” BREACH will see its first iteration as an interactive installation in November at MIRA Festival 2019 in Barcelona and will tour internationally in 2020.
Film by Rick Farin, SCI Arc Fiction and Entertainment 2019
The Pantheon of Queer Mythology is a fashion editorial produced in Virtual Reality. The fashion is a collaboration between a diverse ensemble of queer artists under my creative direction, captured and showcased through the use of photogrammetry. These scenes are capsules of worship, conflict, love, and despair, and throw light into what it means to be queer today. These stories reference the important heritage of our queer forefathers, foremothers, and foreparents and these deities are the genesis of a new mythological archive of characters inclusive of spectral sexual and gender identities. The project will be premiered in LA in early 2020.
Film by Enrique Agudo, SCI-Arc Fiction and Entertainment 2019
Mojo is a computer-generated music video that presents a future in which afro- American values are “the predominant cultural model”. Vast machines operated by music producers move over a flood plain landscape, using bass notes from amplified music to vibrate bodies of water. These vibrations displace the water so that it irrigates the surrounding soil, watering plants distributed by seed-dropping drones. The music video portrays a world in which automation has removed the need for manual human labor and landscapes has become a platform for self-expression. African Americans who were historically regarded as property or machines now use machines in the service of leisure and expression.
Film by Jeremy Kamal Hartley, SCI-Arc Fiction and Entertainment 2019
Current Affairs is an interactive VR experience that takes audiences on a journey into the depths of a plastic polluted ocean, where an Octopus leads us to the unknown pacific garbage island. Working with real-time datasets that come live and direct from the deep sea, this immersive environment changes and responds to reveal the current geo-mythology of the plastic island and makes tangible the strength and pollution of deep-sea currents. With the octopus, we drift beneath the waves and confront the hidden consequence of our daily routines. But what is the plastic island, and does it really exist? Or is it just an anecdote to confirm our worst fears about overconsumption? A cloud drifting and floating through media spaces and digital forums? A society of objects created on a planetary scale, an accumulation of our cultural traces and artifacts.
Current Affairs will tour festivals internationally across 2020. Film by Shuruq Tramontini, SCI-Arc Fiction and Entertainment 2019
In SCI-Arc Edge’s Fiction and Entertainment program, we engage the techniques of popular culture to imagine and visualize alternative worlds. Deeply embedded in the entertainment industry of Los Angeles, this program is a place to start telling new kinds of stories about the emerging conditions of the twenty-first century.
‘Earth Mother Sky Father’ is a live-action music video by SCI-Arc Fiction & Entertainment student Kordae Jatafa Henry that takes place in the year 2030 when the Congo is no longer shipping unrefined rare earth minerals out to sea but is keeping its wealth onshore and in the ground.
‘Last Choice’ is a hybrid documentary by SCI-Arc Fiction & Entertainment student Lu Te-Hsing exploring Hikikomori, a condition of social-withdrawal prevalent among young men in Japan.
‘Valentine in Things City’ by SCI-Arc Fiction & Entertainment student Viviane Komati is a research and design project that imagines the future of post-human spaces like Google data centers and Amazon warehouses.
In a near future Los Angeles everyone sees the city through their own set of augmented reality contact lenses.
As Elon Musk launches his mission to Mars, Trump announces the formation of Space Force and China broadcasts new narratives of industrial dominance, technology, politics, and fiction are merging together.
Architectural Technologies Final Degree Studio taught by Marcelo Spina looked at technologies of automation and the role that new forms of artificial intelligence play in reshaping our built environment, as well as their capacity to engender sublime and yet plausible images of near future speculative reality.
Proposing a new armature for stage design, this project by SCI-Arc EDGE student Maxime Lefebvre in Marcelo Spina and Casey Rehm’s Architectural Technologies Postgraduate Program develops and utilizes an A.I model which collects, samples and reimagines stage imagery while tracking and mapping a panel system in motion.