'The Intersection' by Superflux solemnly reflects on global crises through technology

In conversation with STIR, Superflux founders Anab Jain and Jon Ardern probe the role of ambient technology in imagining a cooperative future through their short film.

by Anmol AhujaPublished on : Feb 01, 2022

The COVID-19 crisis, the foremost global calamity of our times, along with the foreboding climate crisis, has affected nearly every facet of modern life and existence as we know it. The creative disciplines too are not unaffected, using these crises as a means to pause, to reflect, and to represent. As is the inevitability of human endeavour, while a faction may have rested and recuperated, another accelerated, ushering the human race into an era that we may not entirely be prepared for. Amid reservations on the overtly dependant relationship with technology that nearly every modern household harbours, on constant global surveillance, storage and displacement of customer data and credit information, extractive technology, and rampant misinformation, the announcement of the Metaverse has rightly been received with equal parts excitement and an equal amount of pointed ears. These interventions, including numerous AI guides, birthed to make our lives easier and more convenient, surround us in great, infallible numbers. While even the most sentient among us are aware of the perils of an overabundance of tech, routinely waking up from an induced slumber to watch the lights on the Alexa dance and wonder, only a measly per cent among us stop and ask: where does it stop?

“Digital Chaos”, as described in the opening scenes of the film | The Intersection | Superflux | STIRworld
“Digital Chaos”, as described in the opening scenes of the film Image: Courtesy of Superflux

Anglo-Indian design studio Superflux, headquartered in London, aptly refers to this phenomenon as ambient technology: an extension of this tech so succinctly into the fabric of our everyday lives that its distinction as an identifiably separate and discrete factor is blurred. That definition may very well be at the heart of their latest work, a short film called The Intersection, that seeks to journey from “a violent present to a cooperative future”. Moving beyond the usual “too much technology” trope that is essentially the backbone of most science-fiction, The Intersection places an equally conscious spotlight on definitive global events that influenced discourse, and omniscient global issues that should but may not actively be shaping policy-making around the globe. The unfortunate murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor leading to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, the emergence of devastating wildfires in disparate pockets along the world, and the pandemic itself, have been cited as concrete influences and distinct temporal points that shine a light on the crevices of a dated system, in severe need of reform.

  • The film is interspersed with visuals of “diegetic prototypes” constituting a Craftocene: assembled objects of technology made using craft techniques | The Intersection | Superflux | STIRworld
    The film is interspersed with visuals of “diegetic prototypes” constituting a Craftocene: assembled objects of technology made using craft techniques Image: Courtesy of Superflux
  • The Server Pack Frame, a nomadic storage device for transporting and sharing data within a dispersed and decentralised network | The Intersection | Superflux | STIRworld
    The Server Pack Frame, a nomadic storage device for transporting and sharing data within a dispersed and decentralised network Image: Courtesy of Superflux

Developing simultaneously as a research and speculative design project, the 16-minute short film can be seen charting a narrative from our present crucible to an increasingly hopeful future. The genesis of that hope is hearteningly human, with the story being told through the lens of four protagonists - Ericka, Jake, Amp, and Tammi - who each wrestle through modern incarnations of colonialism, racial injustice, social inequity, the climate crisis, an accelerated economic crisis, and political apathy towards these issues. All this while, the protagonists are surrounded by a literal and metaphorical overwhelming-by-design notion of technology, all around us, yet increasingly harbouring an emotion of rueful abandonment, until the imminent social fracture reaches a fever pitch a few years from now. The Intersection is a journey through these imagined temporal landmarks, and a beacon for coming together in the face of these futures.

  • A series of hyper-local, mesh network sensing nodes constructed using readily available materials constitute sensors for the world of ‘The Intersection’ | The Intersection | Superflux | STIRworld
    A series of hyper-local, mesh network sensing nodes constructed using readily available materials constitute sensors for the world of ‘The Intersection’ Image: Courtesy of Superflux
  • These sensors are distributed within an environment to collect data about the surroundings in a decentralised manner | The Intersection | Superflux | STIRworld
    These sensors are distributed within an environment to collect data about the surroundings in a decentralised manner Image: Courtesy of Superflux
  • A Sensor Network Monitor, an e-ink based device which gathers and visualises data collected by the distributed network of sensors | The Intersection | Superflux | STIRworld
    A Sensor Network Monitor, an e-ink based device which gathers and visualises data collected by the distributed network of sensors Image: Courtesy of Superflux

A notion of underlying frugality, and through that, of ceaseless humanity, is also reflected in the “design artefacts” that the protagonists employ in the film’s latter half. These tools for a supposed resurgence, termed the ‘Craftocene’, resurgent tools generated from the waste of the Anthropocene, constitute meaningful touchpoints or ‘diegetic prototypes’ - physical, crafty manifestations of time itself. By assuming the form of “put-together” technology, assemblages from everyday objects, the prototypes signify decentralisation, a subversion of the traditional notions of technology: back into supposably more private yet used for the greater good of the community. Through intersecting alternative narratives, The Intersection finds a distinct voice in the imagination of a probable future, and the role each of us may come to play in it.

  • VR helmets are frequently used in the film to represent an overload of visual stimuli pertaining to modern technology | The Intersection | Superflux | STIRworld
    VR helmets are frequently used in the film to represent an overload of visual stimuli pertaining to modern technology Image: Courtesy of Superflux
  • The devices and associated tech propel the narrative of the film forward while also contributing to the film’s aesthetic language | The Intersection | Superflux | STIRworld
    The devices and associated tech propel the narrative of the film forward while also contributing to the film’s aesthetic language Image: Courtesy of Superflux

In a candid chat with STIR, Superflux co-founders and co-directors of the film, Anab Jain and Jon Ardern, describe their intentions and ideas behind the film, the processes that brought these to fruition, and the future of the imaginary collective. 

16 mins watch Superflux co-founders and co-directors of the film, Anab Jain and Jon Ardern, in conversation with STIR on ‘The Intersection’ | The Intersection | Superflux | STIRworld
Superflux co-founders and co-directors of the film, Anab Jain and Jon Ardern, in conversation with STIR on ‘The Intersection’ Video: Courtesy of Superflux

Watch the full film by clicking on the cover video.

Project Details

Name: The Intersection
Studio: Superflux
Commissioned By: Eshanthi Ranasinghe, Julia Solano And Nicole Allred At Omidyar Network
Strategy and Creative Direction: Jon Ardern, Anab Jain
Film Direction: Anab Jain, Matthew Edgson, Jon Ardern
Development and Production: Matthew Edgson, Lizzie Crouch, Jon Ardern, Nicola Ferrao, Ed Lewis, Anab Jain, Nico Fioritti, Leanne Fischler, Natalia Dovhalionok
Research: Aarathi Krishnan, Yuebai Liu, Jay Owens, Justin Pickard
Communications Strategy: EA1, Ronda Zelezny-Green

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