Caroline Robert discusses her new interactive web project “Brainstream”
Brainstream ‘the animation and design of s is relatively, and appropriately, simple. Recalling parts of the classic NFB film by Peter Foldes Hunger (1974), the raw, scribbled look fits perfectly with the way many people draw (while channeling something from their inner chaos). The viewers – we are led to believe that we are among many simultaneous participants – are invited by D to use their computer mouse to massage her.
The massage triggers different parts of his brain, distorts and generates new images. During the experiment (in which we choose to participate for 5 or 20 minutes), we see D’s memories, from which we learn about his family, friends and school life, his various subordinate activities (cutting oneself off hair herself, unblocking the toilet, teaching her little sister how farts work), and her demons of shame, guilt and anxiety.
“I wanted to experiment with 2D animation and create a kind of living material that could react in real time to touch. We have had experiences like this in previous projects for the NFB, ”explains Robert, who frequently collaborates with his AATOAA (and Brain) his colleagues Vincent Morisset and coder Édouard Lanctôt-Benoit; the group previously did the interactive work BLA bla for the NFB. “I also wanted to use animation to morph at any time without a timeline,” she adds.
It’s a fascinating idea. On the one hand, we learn more about social anxiety, self-loathing and the unpredictability of the brain. D approaches her problems in a fun, self-deprecating way that relieves them, for her and for us. As viewers, we find solace in the opening of D. She humanizes her experiences, making them relatable, humorous, and reparable.
“I wanted to create characters that were annoying, but that get cute in a way that you can get away from them and not take them too seriously,” adds Robert. “We can be so intense with ourselves and tell each other things that are really mean.”
Brain is applicable to any age group, but teens will undoubtedly connect strongly. The choice of a teenage girl protagonist reflects the prevalence of anxiety among young people growing up in the age of social media and the Internet. They are bombarded with information, images and constant bs. Many do not yet have the tools to sort the good from the nonsense.
“I have a lot of friends with kids who are very anxious,” says Robert. “It was not my original intention to do anything for young girls or young people in general, but many children are more anxious than ever. “
Brain is also subtly subversive in that it encourages viewers to use their mouse for a more meaningful purpose than scrolling through social media feeds. “We spend so much time and energy moving our fingers or our mouse, and I thought maybe I could do something to harness that energy, to translate it into something that could help someone. one, ”says Robert. “It was the premise of the brain massage idea. A small gesture can be rewarding and meaningful in one way or another. You would help someone just by touching your screen.
On time, Brain feels too easy. Many of the issues he addresses relate to our society. We live in a hyper-consumerist, capitalist system that does not suit us. The system makes us sick and to understand this we need to go beyond an individual’s brain and explore the social and economic conditions that trigger these mental health issues. Admittedly, this is a big, complicated and messy problem with no overnight remedies.
But as viewers, we feel better listening to D. Hers is like a sure, friendly voice in our head (enhanced by Mathieu Charbonneau’s sensitive, almost ASMR soundscape). We think we helped her, and in doing so, we feel a little better about ourselves.
Brain reminds us that human connection – being able to listen to and engage with each other – is the key to finding some inner harmony. When we see we’re in this shit together, it can make demons a lot more manageable, and even laughable.
Brainstream experience here.