design – information experience interactive exhibition graphic

Bitter Poppies

Royal College of Art
MA Information Experience Design

Helen Mair, Sylvana Lautier,
Ava Watson

Max MSP, Madmapper
Helen Mair

Sylvana Lautier, Helen, Mair,
Ava Watson

Video editing
Sylvana Lautier, Ava Watson

Sylvana Lautier

This installation draws inspiration from Adam Curtis’s 2015 documentary "Bitter Lake”. Curtis’s film looks at the story of Afghanistan’s attempt to replicate the economic growth seen in 1940s USA from building a series of hydroelectric dams. Unlike America, the Afghani dams destroy the water table of the region, leaving the once fertile country unable to grow produce or graze animals. The new soil is uniquely suited for growing opium poppies. From the mid 1990s Afghanistan becomes the number one producer of opium and heroin worldwide.

Gracefully waving poppies accompanied by the gentle music of La Bayadere’s “Moderato” greet the audience, only to be disrupted as soon as anyone attempts to step onto the unstable platform in the centre of the projected space. The poppy footage is replaced by various images of war and heroin addiction rapidly flickering across the projected surfaces as the user attempts to regain their balance. The poppies only reappear if the platform becomes level.

The aim being to recreate the general sense of uneasiness embodied by Curtis’s film into a visceral experience. Similarly, Curtis’s stylistic technique of contrasting disturbing and uplifting footage with alternative audio was replicated to enhance the uncertainty of interpretation.

RCA News

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