Even if you love the work of “venereal horror” king David Cronenberg as much as we do, it’s unlikely you’ve ever said to yourself that you’d like to live inside the dark world of beta tape-eating chest cavities, grotesque human-to-fly transformations, and telekenesis-powered head explosions. But that’s exactly what the Toronto International Film Festival, the Canadian Film Centre, and installation artist/self-proclaimed “experience designer” Lance Weiler have teamed up to do.
In connection with TIFF’s “David Cronenberg: Evolution” exhibit running through January, Weiler’s “Body/Mind/Change” seeks to recreate for the intrepid fan the experience of living inside a Cronenberg film. Particularly inspired by his celebrated Videodrome and its less celebrated thematic sequel eXistenZ, “Body/Mind/Change” looks like it will take the museumgoer through an extensive, interactive, tactile Cronenbergian narrative full of biotechnological paranoia and interactions with personalized (and possibly malevolent) artificial intelligence.
The interactive exhibit is being sold through mysterious allusions about vague scientific developments in the field of biotech implants, with Cronenberg himself having revealed a device named “Frisky” this past September at TIFF. As the project attempts to blur the lines between real-world science and the allegorical science fiction of Cronenberg’s work, it’s a bit difficult to tell exactly what this exhibit will entail and what degree of interaction it expects from spectators. As with Cronenberg’s films and Weiler’s other work, “Body/Mind/Change” is something that has to be viscerally experienced firsthand in order to be remotely understood.
The clearest and most concise explanation about “Body/Mind/Change” can be found on TIFF’s website, which summarizes the installation/exhibit/whatever-it-is thusly:
Body/Mind/Change (BMC), a digital extension of David Cronenberg: Evolution, immerses audiences in a “Cronenbergian” world inspired by the film Videodrome, re-imagined for the 21st century and brought to life across three platforms – online, mobile, and real-world – through an “artificial intelligence recommendation engine” called POD (Personal On-Demand). Co-produced by CFC Media Lab with creative direction by Lance Weiler, Body/Mind/Change features plot lines and game mechanics involving biotechnology start-ups, body enhancements, and emotional learning systems, and presents the plausible science fiction found in Cronenberg’s work as scientific fact.
The narrative begins with the activities of BMC Labs, a fictional biotech firm that has partnered with David Cronenberg to develop biotech accessories inspired by the intellectual property found in his films such as Scanners, Videodrome, and eXistenZ. Journeying through this multi-platform, immersive narrative ride, players will experience first-hand the emotional steps involved in merging with technology to transform and evolve oneself, one of the key themes Cronenberg explores in his works.”
Cronenberg is clearly the face, selling point, and inspiration for “Body/Mind/Change,” but he’s less the author of the project than it may actually seem. During an interview with Noah Taylor of IndieWire at TIFF, Cronenberg (while brandishing the enigmatic Frisky) emphasized Weiler’s authorship of the project, stating,
“…I don’t know enough about it because I’ve been making Map to the Stars. I think he (Lance Weiler, ‘experience designer’ of Body/Mind/Change) has some really interesting ideas for interactive connecting with the audience who would come to the exhibits but I don’t really know all the ins and outs of it, I really don’t. I don’t know what that experience is going to be like…”
On that last point, neither do we. And that’s exactly what’s intriguing (and even a bit frightening) about the prospect of an interactive experience meant to resemble a Cronenberg film – or, at least, the types of films Cronenberg was best known for making throughout the 1980s. This sounds like easily the best possible thing to have ever come out of eXistenZ.