Marrying Virginia Woolf's stream of consciousness poetry with experimental visuals, a new film from director Marta di Francesco interprets Woolf's classic The Waves with a unique aesthetic developed over the course of several years. Drawing on technology artists and engineers are using to teach computers to see, di Francesco asks where our own digital selves begin and end, just as Woolf questions the beginnnigs and ending of consciousness in her writing.
Di Francesca's process starts with a Kinect depth sensor, the same kind used for those motion-capture video games that were really popular in the early 10s. She captured the voice and visage of reader Adele Orcajada with both the sensor and a DSLR camera. The footage you see in her short film The Waves is every single point where the depth sensor data and the digital footage overlap, called a point cloud. The result is a mesh-like effect that appeals to di Francesca's curiosity about how we perceive ourselves in the internet age.
"The poem explores the theme of the female identity. Identity is usually connected to the body, but in the virtual space, there is no body and the sense of self is not anchored but fluctuating," she says. "The line dividing those identities fades and disappears like the line that divides the sea and the land." Di Francesca's visuals address that duality by sitting on the edge of abstraction. The Waves offers a vantage point at the crossroads of digital and physical identity. Each pokes holes in the other until all that remains is a mesh that exists in both realms at once.
The artist has previously explored the Sumerian myth of Ishtar and Sufi traditional dance using the point cloud technique. She feels Woolf's poem speaks both to her aesthetic and the ideas troubling her today. "I love the tension between the flux of The Waves and the pulsing textures of the background. Like the hypnotic shimmering of the sea, the texture never rests, resembling Woolf's unsettling state of the mind and its stream of consciousness. The sense of being lost at sea, engulfed by the waves, marries the disorientating 3D space."
Check out an exclusive premiere of di Francesco's The Waves below.
See more of Marta di Francesca's work on her website.