area: Media Art, Theory
areaMedia Art, Theory
recommending institutionASIFA AUSTRIA
time periodMay 2019 - June 2019
Noel Palazzo is a curator, screenwriter, lecturer and researcher with a special interest in abstract film, and the rich intersection between Fine Arts and Media. She occasionally delves into making experimental videos and animations, and writes essays as a film critic. A couple of her short films have been awarded internationally.
Since 2004 she has been a member of MAD, a non-profit association based in Barcelona. Devoted to cultural engineering, MAD develops projects involving science, art and technology. Punto y Raya Festival is their greatest endeavour to date, championing abstract film and animation worldwide. In its ten-year trajectory it has become the benchmark for Abstract Art in Motion. Since 2008 she has also been a member of the iotaCenter's Advisory Council in Los Angeles·CA. She acts as a juror for various international festivals, and curates special programmes of avantgarde film and animation.
> WORKING TITLE: WHAT DO I KNOW?
The evolution of ideas
> FORMAT: Series of video collages, Episode RT: 3-5’
> THE PROJECT
HOW WOULD I KNOW? narrates in first person the fascinating stories behind scientific discovery, full of mystery, shortcomings, and revelations. With echoes of Jeopardy and other popular game-shows, HOW WOULD I KNOW? presents onstage a dream-team of experts: from Aristotle to Galileo and Newton, from Boltzmann to Einstein and Higgs. Following the game-show format, the panel discusses a range of topics of various complexities, from the shape of the Earth, to Time, Dark Matter, and Quantum Gravity.
The imaginary set extends from the dawn of scientific enquiry (on the far left of the stage) to this day (on the far right), slicing and zooming in on various geo-temporal locations that are relevant to the subject at hand. Our peculiar moderator is an old blue teacup named Ms.
Coolteacup, the sole companion of the eternal librarian guarding the Library of Babel. She doesn’t seem to know much about the topics, but her childish curiosity and eagerness to understand and reach a consensus, help unravel the mysteries and keep the arguments intelligible for general audiences. And of course, the assembly of such diverse minds, illuminated by their personal genius while limited by the pre-conceptions of their time, gives rise to many humorous and unexpected arguments. The general tone is comedic, as Ms. Coolteacup tries to keep her illustrious guests reined in, and focuses on the Eureka! moments that will, eventually, bring it all together.
The series’ goal is to provide a comparative history of ideas based on various theories and experiments developed over centuries. Since the dawn of humankind, these concepts have come closer or moved farther away from successfully explaining the universe, with our current understanding being just one step along this ongoing winding road we call Knowledge. Thus, HOW WOULD I KNOW? focuses on the importance of these fundamental principles: questioning one's beliefs, listening to reason, seeking diverse and reliable sources, being both open-minded and critical, and cherishing the importance of dialogue, more than providing a final definite answer. This will become increasingly obvious as scientists switch from the notion of a fully knowable world to that of probable outcomes at the turn of the 20th century. The editing is agile and appealing to general audiences, and it contextualises each speaker in space and time. Although the dynamics revolve around the ‘endless stage’, particular speakers can be briefly interviewed when more clarification is required. Other format is the FACE OFF edition, an intellectual parody of Celebrity Deathmatch that recreates the hottest scientific feuds in history… fought with the power of argumentation. Some examples are Newton vs. Leibniz or Einstein vs. Bohr.
Aesthetically, HOW WOULD I KNOW? brings together available original footage from the panellists, their experiments and historical context, with quirky recreations of the discussions animated in Adobe Character Animator (ACA). This mixed technique presents an interesting challenge, that might help expose the contrast between original footage and the various types of recreations and second-hand “quotations”.
While devising video collages is a very time-consuming endeavour, ACA software allows for fast and dynamic animations based on audio tracks, accelerating the editing process. ACA is also a handy tool to animate characters live and in real-time, a dimension that I would also like to explore in future seasons of the series. Being a recently developed tool, ACA offers a wide range of possibilities to be discovered.
This project is a response to my personal concern for the ever-increasing use of Wikipedia and other online sites as primary sources for school and academic research; most of these sites are either outdated, incomplete or inaccurate, and in some cases, purposefully misleading. Unfortunately, this online research methodology keeps spreading as the tools for self-publication and cross-referencing are integrated with the most popular online platforms.
These present only the information you are most likely to accept as The Truth, which fluctuates based on the tribe you belong to. Thus, this feedback loop --caused and fostered by a general lack of discrimination by students and other readers-- seems to have run amuck in the last few years, spreading to major media and broadcasting corporations and paving the way for what Victor Pickard has dubbed our ‘Misinformation Society’.
In this digital era, ideal for cross-referencing and meta-information, HOW WOULD I KNOW? uses the magic of the video-collage to create an imaginary stage that illustrates on the 2D video screen the multiple dimensions of our history. I chose the Series format in order to dive in depth into very specific and manageable topics, and juxtaposing original footage with animated characters, to allow for (or simulate) first-person testimonies as quoted straight from the original sources. The game-show format also helps create suspense and calls for a more active and playful engagement from the viewer.
The project contemplates the participation of scientific commentators --always via animated avatars-- who can help us bridge some of the gaps in the documentation and offer new insights into the topic at hand.
Hopefully in upcoming episodes, I will be able to invite audiences to formulate a question to our panel or argue ideas proposed on previous episodes. Messages from the viewers are requested in WAV format (sound files) in order to animate the participants as part of our studio audience in the HOW WOULD I KNOW? virtual set. A second stage of the project may also include an interactive online platform, where users can dive deeper into the subjects by following hyperlinks to other videos, books and articles.
This platform is part of other project I am developing: E-LIBRARY OF BABEL, inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’ writings.
During my residency at Q21 I will seek to:
- Develop a proof of concept / create a teaser.
- Search for Austrian partners and animation studios interested in the project.
- Establish partnerships and obtain financial support from institutions fostering science communication, i.e. the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (NY, US), the Exploratorium (SF·US, who already showed interest in the project), UCSD (CA, US), and CosmoCaixa in Barcelona (SP).