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O (Omicron) (SHORT FILM)

As with “Sight,” the short science fiction film that we highlighted as one of last week’s video offerings, the best way to watch the wonder that is “O (Omicron)” is probably to go into it “blind,” as it were, without knowing anything about it in advance. Both visually and musically, it’s a dazzling and overwhelming piece of work that demands full, undivided attention, and also a good set of speakers or headphones with the volume turned way up. For a first viewing we recommend simply letting it envelope you, while bearing in mind that there’s a clear guiding vision behind it, and a dystopian SF-influenced one at that. The Huffington Post’s Andres Jauregui captures the general vibe when he asks, “What, apart from visiting the H.R. Giger Museum, could come close to approximating the sublime thrill of running for your life inside an alien space ship? Well, for starters, there’s ‘Omicron’ … Paired with its own soundtrack, the overall effect is immense, immersive, and slightly terrifying.”

Also note that while a person would be forgiven for thinking the environment the film depicts is a purely virtual/CG creation, such a person would be wrong. This is actually a real-world installation, created via projection-mapping technology, that you can visit in person, and this fact makes the whole thing all the more striking (see the notes below).

“O (Omicron)” is “a permanent installation directed by Romain Tardy & Thomas Vaquié,” who explain the project’s inception in a June 18 blog post:

Last year, we were approached to create our first permanent installation for the new museum of architecture of Hala Stulecia, in Wroclaw, Poland. The piece — that we called O (Omicron), is actually the last part of the visit, and a way to create a link between the rich history of the building and the present times, by turning this massive concrete structure into a lively architecture.

They also explain its setting:

When opened, Hala Stulecia was the largest reinforced concrete structure in the world. With a diameter of 65m it was home to the largest dome built since the Pantheon in Rome eighteen centuries earlier. The Centennial Hall was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006. It is reasonable to think that when Hala Stulecia was built in 1913 Max Berg’s ambition for his construction was to pass the test of time. What could have been his vision of the monument in the distant future? How did he imagine the olding of the materials? The evolution of the surrounding urbanism and populations?

Centennial Hall after renovation in 2009 and gate to zoo in Wrocław.

And its conception:

The piece proposed for the Centennial Hall of Wroclaw is based around the notion of timelessness in architecture, and the idea of what future has meant throughout the 20th century. Taking the 1910’s as a starting point (the dome was erected in 1913), historical and artistic references were used to reveal the architecture of the space, its timeless and, more surprisingly, very modern dimension. A deliberately minimalist visual aesthetic allowed to highlight the very architecture of Hala Stulecia’s dome and re-affirm its place at the core of the piece. Minimalism also appeared to be the most appropriate means of conveying this idea of future at different periods of time (from 20’s/30’s anticipation film to more contemporary productions ). But the use of these references was not simply formal: the vision of futuristic totalitarian societies seemed to echo back real moments in the history of the building, warning us against the dangers of an idealized vision of the future.

And its awesome music:

Inspiration for the music composed by Thomas for this project was found in both orchestral work, echoing the colossal size of the architecture, and electronic textures, evoking the action of time. The score also tried and recreate a sense of evolution of the materials used for the dome structure, and their sonic aging.

And its guiding vision:

By using references such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis or the utopian projects of Archigram to confront the different visions of the future at different times, we were interested in trying to create a vision of a future with no precise time reference. A timeless future.

There’s also a fascinating “making of” film to accompany the main project. If you’re like us, watching it and reading all of the above will make you want to go back and watch the main piece again in order to see its meaning newly illuminated.

Image: Centennial Hall in Wrocław and Zoo Wrocław 1 by Robert Niedźwiedzki via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons