The Ministry of Information
Navigatable 3D space based on the Ministry of Information office from 1985 dystopic film Brazil by Terry Gilliam.
produced by: Alexander MacKinnon
Terry Gilliam's 1985 Science-Fiction film, Brazil, presents a satirical bureaucratic, technocratic and corporate dystopian future vision of society. In this project I attempted to reinterperate the protagonist's workplace, presenting a speculative dystopian virtual workplace which feels both oppressive in the virtual setting displayed on the screen as well as the interaction the on the viewer/user end, with them in a spotlight and being surveilled by the camera as they navigate the space.
Concept and background research
I was inspired by an essay by cultural historian H. Bruce Franklin discussing the pessimism and overwhelmingly negative dystopian future visions presented in science fiction movies of the 70s and 80s, and which are still presented in contemporary media. Franklin suggests that they reflected the social decay and anxieties around politics and technologies of their time. Terry Gilliam's Brazil presents a satirical technocratic and corporate dystopian future vision of society, which focuses on the bureaucracy of daily life in the workplace.
The protagonist, Sam Lowry, works at the Ministry of Information, a grim and oppressive office space reminiscent of an industrial factory. The office is layed out in a long corridor lined with file cabinets and computers with the boss's office at the end overlooking the employees. With the increased move towards virtual spaces to host social events, work and entertainment due to the coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to reimagine the dystopic workplace from the film in the virtual context.
The project uses the ofxBullet addon to handle the physics system in the virtual space, as it has many useful built in tools for dealing with simple physics in 3D space. I used colliders to put together a simple room to contain the player and game objects. I used ofxAssimpModelLoader to load some 3D models I had made in blender to populate the 3D office. I created classes for the objects which also included rigidbody colliders from the ofxBullet addon, and functions I could use to move the objects around.
I ran into a lot of problems trying to create a physics driven character controller. Eventually I created one using an invisible sphere collider which rolls around the space, controlled by the player through using optical flow controls. The player is given 2 screen zones, one of which controls their orientation and another which applies a torque force to roll the ball based on the camera's orientation.
To connect my PC to the PS3 eye cam with openframeworks I used the ofxPS3EyeGrabber addon.
I had initially planned to create a monotanous goal oriented activity for the player to undertake while in the space, based on the repetitive and mind numbing activities many face in the workplace. I had planned to create a file collection system, in which files would spawn at workstations and the player would pick them up and take them to specifiied file drawers. Eventually I spent far too long resolving issues I was experiencing with the physics addon and creating the character controller and ran out of time to implement this. I plan to add this into the project later on.
Overall I was pleased with the visual presentation of the project, which was installed displayed in 240p resolution on an old broadcasting CRT monitor, which resembles the monitors I created in the space and I think added to the mise en scene of the presented virtual space. I learned a lot from experimenting with the physics addon but struggled a lot with the mathematics involved, especially quaternion rotations which I need to spend some time studying.
I was also disappointed that I was unable to implement the file collection system discussed in the future development section within the given time frame, as I believe that would have a huge benefit to the user engagement of the artwork and also be more relevant to the themes explored.
H. Bruce Franklin (1990) Visions of the Future in Science Fiction Films from 1970 to 1982. Included in Alien Zone by Annette Kuhn
Terry Gilliam (1985) Brazil
Nick Hardeman ofxBullet physics addon: https: //github.com/NickHardeman/ofxBullet
Christopher Baker ofxPS3EyeGrabber addon: https://github.com/bakercp/ofxPS3EyeGrabber