Re-Presenting the World: Intuitive Video Synchronisation for “No Master Territories” at the HKW Berlin
With its carefully conceived exhibition dedicated to feminism and the moving image, the HKW (House of the World’s Cultures) in Berlin has recently opened another chapter in The New Alphabet project. Curated by Erika Balsom and Hila Peleg, this new exhibition is made up primarily of films, with many of the works being re-presented to a wider audience for the first time in decades. The films on display are often hybrids, mixing together documentary and arthouse genres with experimental film and video. The exhibition brings together over 100 works by more than 80 female artists covering a range of geopolitical and global contexts. Its title, “No Master Territories”, is taken from a collection of essays by Trinh T. Minh-ha. It refers to a long sought after society free from tyranny or domination of any kind.
Examining feminism in the past and present
In keeping with its internationalist traditions, this latest HKW exhibition has intentionally looked beyond just the USA and Western Europe for its selection of works. Although well-known artists like Maria Lassnig, Tabea Blumenschein and Chantal Akerman are represented, the exhibition also showcases female filmmakers and artists who’ve only been familiar to smaller and more specialist audiences until now. By offering visitors a first contact with such works, “No Master Territories” provides a space for new experiences and inspirations to take place. The fact that these artists often use their own identities, environments and bodies for their creations means that encountering their works for the first time can open doors to many new realities and perspectives.
For example, one of the films featured in the exhibition is the multiple award-winning documentary “My Survival as an Aboriginal” from 1979 (16 mm, 51 minutes). Directed by the Australian filmmaker Essie Coffey, it deals with her own search for self-empowerment as an Aboriginal woman in the marginalised society of 1970s Australia. Coffey was a well-known political activist and co-founder of the Western Aboriginal Legal Services – an organisation fighting for legal support and court representation for Aboriginal people. She even presented a copy of “My Survival as an Aboriginal” to Queen Elizabeth II at the opening of Parliament House in Canberra in 1988. Essie Coffey passed away in 1998 at the age of 56, and her film is considered to be the very first documentary ever directed by an Aboriginal woman.
An intimate and autonomous way to experience audio elements in films and videos
The main challenge that tonwelt faced with this exhibition was how to make its many films and videos accessible to visitors in an intuitive and autonomous way. By working closely with the HKW and the AV integrator Eidotech, we decided to make our triggerPoints clearly visible throughout the exhibition, by marking them with corresponding symbols wherever a video-work was available with an audio track. Upon entering the exhibition, each visitor is given a supraGuide ECO device equipped with headphones. All the visitor has to do is point his or her device at one of our 40-plus triggerPoints to receive the corresponding audio signal for that particular piece of video-art. The audio then continues to play autonomously, via the headphones, until the visitor selects another signal from the next station or POI. Importantly, visitors only need to use the keypads on their devices to adjust the volume or halt a track early – so there’s nothing to interfere with their engagement with the works on display. In other words, the technology fades into the background, allowing visitors to enjoy a concentrated and undisturbed experience.
Best Practice Video/Audio Sync: Exhibiting videos and films in a tightly limited space
Lip-synchronised triggering from tonwelt is used all over the world, and it has proved particularly popular thanks to its wide range of functions and intuitive handling. As a reliable and easy to use system, it is not only in demand in contemporary art exhibitions and biennials, but also in cultural history museums and other permanent exhibitions where documentary film material is an integral part of the show. By synchronising soundtracks to each individual visitor’s audio or multimedia device, the system enables visitors to receive their own pre-selected audio content or language version without interference – even when they’re standing right next to each other in a limited space! However, it’s important to remember that although tonwelt also offers native applications and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) for ‘bring-your-own-device’ operations, such solutions quickly reach their technical limits once automatic triggering or synchronisation of image and sound are required. For example, while Bluetooth-beacons can be used for general large-scale and directional triggering, they remain unsuitable for focussed triggering deployed directly at the point of interest. For years now, tonwelt has been developing its own patented technology in this field to meet the needs of museums and cultural institutions. Our lip-sync system can be used across the entire portfolio of tonwelt devices, such as our classic supraGuide ECO, our barrier-free devices like supraGuide MULTI and supraGuide TOUCH, and our multimedia devices such as supraGuide TOUCH4 and supraGuide DIVA. These specialised devices are the state of the art today. By enabling a smooth communication with all the other components and media technology at an exhibition, they facilitate an optimal and uninterrupted performance – especially where the seamless delivery of film and video material is essential for a great visitor experience!
HKW – Haus der Kulturen der Welt
Place & Date
Berlin (D), 2022
audio guide, system planning and integration, Videosynch with triggering