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Fortress of Solitude

Year: 2014
Format: HD Video
Duration: 20 min 25 sec
Audio: Stereo Sound
Commissioned by Space Caviar for Biennale Interieur Kortrijk.

‘Fortress of Solitude’ is an essay film in three chapters investigating the technology used to make the home smarter. The internet and alternative network protocols are the backbone to home automation. Yet, much of the technology built into domestic spaces and everyday live gadgets are the result or byproducts of research conducted for the military industrial complex. Is the smart home then, a militarisation of the domestic space? Is the home gradually turned into a data generating and collecting machine rather than architecture for living? Are the most privates spaces broadcasting people's lives involuntarily instead of providing shelter?

Tracing the possibilities of a military-domestic complex, Fortress of Solitude is an investigative narrative interspersed with future product proposals while following the everyday of a parent.

The first home automation system, ECHO IV, was developed in 1966 by Jim Sutherland, then an engineer with the Westinghouse Corporation. It’s size took up the entire basement of his own house. The system stored recipes, computed shopping lists and tracked the grocery inventory. These early systems were much too complicated, large and expensive to be released as product. One of their shortcomings was the lack of a graphical user interface. To operate, the machine had to be programmed at a technical level not accessible to an everyday user. Over time, interaction with home automation gadgets has become increasingly intuitive, to the extent of being controlled by voice. Amazon Echo's and Google Home cones are now cohabitors that are constantly listening, in case their powers might be called into action.

Since 1966, computers have entered our homes and pockets as phones, gaming consoles, lightbulbs and door bells. Various smart appliances and gadgets are linked to create an ‘Internet of Things’, a communication network between objects. Instead of the doorbell, the smart phone rings once the postmate order arrives. The vacuum cleaner decides its own cleaning cycles, the plant is never thirsty.

Fortress of Solitude was filmed in various locations to create a familiar, eery portrait of home. Under the assumption that in an automated future the home does not exist, seeking locations to film was directed by the fact that a home is private, and not open to unknown cameras. The selected locations are a wide spectrum of living spaces, from AirBnBs, military bunkers turned into luxury hotels, capsule hotels, abandoned mountain shelters, idealist architectural homes, the various interiors have in common that people shape them and in some cases have outlived technology.

Locations: Sonneveld Huis, Rotterdam NL / Nagakin Tower, Tokyo JPN / Curtain Wall House, Shegru Ban, Tokyo JPN / Transformer Home, Gary Chang, Hong Kong / Chunking Mansions, Hong Kong / The Mira Hotel, Hong Kong / Internet Cafe, Shibuya, Tokyo JPN / La Claustra, Airolo CH / Alphütte, Gotthard, CH / Van Schijndel Huis, Utrecht NL / Akihabara Electric Town, Tokyo JPN

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Credits

⦁ Research, Script & Camera: Simone C Niquille
⦁ Music: M.E.S.H.
⦁ Voice: Patrick Ethan Donovan
⦁ Producer: Space Caviar

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