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Descend into the Underworld in Kinect-Based Short Film 'ISHTAR'

As it turns out, the pared-down aesthetic of a Kinect camera is a great way to portray Assyrian mythos.

Images via, GIFs by Beckett Mufson

The Assyrian legend of Ishtar's descent into the Underworld is an archetypal story that spans multiple cultures, manifesting itself in similar Ancient Greek, Sumerian, Roman, Aramean, and Egyptian mythos. In the story, the goddess Ishtar passes through the seven gates of Hell, shedding an article of clothing at each gate, arriving completely in the buff before the queen of the underworld. In her short film, ISHTAR, director Marta Di Francesco recreates this journey using a Kinect camera and the open-sourced DepthKit to capture an abstract deconstruction of the age-old tale.


ISHTAR opens on a swarm of warping lines and geometric shapes which eventually begin to take the form of a female dancer, the titular Ishtar. She flits in and out of existence, collapsing and reanimating herself as she descends through those seven otherworldly gates. At the end of the film, she collapses back into the abstract lines from which she originated.

Di Francesco describes her piece as "a short film about metamorphosis. A journey from abstraction to beauty, from the wrapping geometries of darkness to grace, pulsing between the violence of change and the ever radical beauty of morphing angles & lines." Since Ishtar is the goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex, the jarring tranformations between beauty and chaos offered by the medium of a Kinect camera fit well into Di Francesco's narrative. Not unlike Radiohead's 2008 video for "House of Cards," which used data-capturing sensors that were precursors to the Kinect, the wavering texture of ISHTAR's protagonist denotes a fluctuation in form worthy of a metamorphosed journey into the abyss.

ISHTAR screened on Nov. 22 at the Dream:ON Digital Arts Programme curated in London by Alpha-ville. Watch the full video above, and savor moments from Di Francesco's short film below:

Visit Di Francesco's site here for more cutting edge experimental films.


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