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  • DAU: Epic film production turned immersive art installation previews in Paris
  • Paris, Jan 23 (efe-epa).- An intriguing and eccentric immersive art project that takes viewers on a time-traveling experiment back to Soviet Russia and which has involved hundreds of participants from around the world previewed on Wednesday at two theaters and an art center in Paris.

    Three major institutions in the French capital, the Théâtre du Châtelet, Théâtre de la Ville and the Centre Pompidou, have come together for the launch of what many are describing as one of the largest cinematic projects ever to be made involving over 700 hours of footage, 2.5 million images, 40,000 items of clothing, 8,000 hours of sound and 4,000 documents.

    "DAU is an ongoing experiment, evolving from a biopic about a Soviet physicist into a large scale project - part cinematic cycle, part behavioral experiment - involving hundreds of participants from around the world," the DAU organizers said on the project's website.

    The project's cast was plunged into a purpose-built building in Ukraine, remodelled to recreate a Soviet Russia aesthetic, for three years with no contact with the outside world.

    "Combining elements of film, theater, science, psychology, architecture, visual arts and performance, it has created a complex and absorbing world that has to be lived as much as seen," the organizers added.

    The project itself took as a starting point a movie by Russian director Ilya Khrzhanovsky about the life of Soviet scientist and Nobel Prize winner Lev Landau, but progressed to an epic thought and behavioral experiment.

    Khrzhanovsky built what DAU calls "The Institute," a purpose-built complex created in the city of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine that reincarnated the period from 1938-1968 in Russia with meticulous precision.

    Scores of actors — mostly non-professional performers from all walks of life including neuroscience, philosophy, politics and art — took part in Khrzhanovsky's Soviet Utopia in a project launched in 2009 that demanded of them to cut ties with the "real world" to adopt characters that inhabited The Institute.

    "Starting in 2009, several hundred people abandoned their normal lives for three years - traveling back in time to the Soviet Union to live and work at The Institute and subject themselves to its demands," Dau organizers explained on the project's website.

    Since filming began, several feature films have been produced, as well as a series.

    The behavioral experiment that was The Institute has been reshaped into an immersive art installation, whereby visitors purchase visas of varying durations, including an all-access premium pass that is preceded by a psychometric test that personalizes the experience.

    How much or how little visitors experience depends on each person's choices, with organizers suggesting the longer visitors stay in the world of DAU the more possibilities they will unlock in this ever-changing and evolving artwork.

    The Parisian venues have been given a sophisticated make-over for this purpose as viewers enter a parallel world of Soviet-era nostalgia, replete with period furniture, vintage artwork and details like old ID documents, books, photographs and crockery.

    The key to the project is how each visitor has a unique experience of the re-imagined world of DAU as their choices within the installation shape their journey.

    As the Dau website tantalizingly says: "DAU is exploration. How far you explore depends on you."

    DAU is set to show at Théâtre du Châtelet and Théâtre de la Ville 24 hours a day and seven days a week from Jan. 24-Feb. 17, and at the Centre Pompidou during museum hours.

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