It's Dau or Never
January 11, 2019 7:31 PM   Subscribe

Thirteen years after production began and roughly eight years after a fascinating GQ article brought it to mainstream attention, the mysterious and controversial Russian film/art project Dau is finally being released.

"The project, originally conceived as a $3m arthouse film biopic about the Nobel prize-winning Russian physicist Lev Landau in 2006, has assumed near-mythic status as one of the strangest and most ambitious endeavours undertaken in recent European film history. The interactive event now covers 30 years of Soviet history from 1938 until 1968 and features footage of hundreds of real people living and working over several years in a specially created scientific ‘institute'."

The Dau experience was supposed to premiere in Berlin in September of last year, but director Ilya Khrzhanovsky's plan to build a replica Berlin Wall was met with opposition from Berliners.

According to the Screen Daily article announcing the premiere, "audience members will be required to respond a number of questions about themselves" when buying their tickets (or "entrance visas"). They must also surrender their smart phones upon entry (though they'll receive a new smart phone that has been twinned with their entrance visa, which will "contain personalized data about visitors and will work both as a guide and as a surveillance mechanism.")

"International artists who will be either inside the theatres or who have created work for the event include Robert del Naja of Massive Attack, who has developed an interactive application that will produce personalised soundtracks for visitors, and Brian Eno, who has created 'bespoke acoustic architecture” for visitors."

The Dau experience opens in Paris on January 24, and runs 24 hours a day until February 17, 2019. A six-hour ticket will cost €35, a day pass €75, and an unlimited ticket €150.

Dau previously on Metafilter
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! (25 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Hooooly shit this sounds incredible.
posted by twoplussix at 7:36 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

This whole thing is bonkers and I'm extremely here for it
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:24 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

Eurostar, here I come!
posted by fallingbadgers at 10:07 PM on January 11

I think I read that Gibson novel already.
posted by q*ben at 10:16 PM on January 11 [6 favorites]

This looks fantastic, and I expect, like Christian Marclay's The Clock, it'll turn into a roving art installation that frustratingly eludes me for the next decade.

All well, at the end of the release article they do mention a plan to make a tv series out of the 700 hours of footage. Take what I can get.
posted by mannequito at 12:20 AM on January 12 [3 favorites]

Can I make it to Paris in the next month, hmm?
posted by vernondalhart at 12:41 AM on January 12

Synecdoche, Mother Russia
posted by nikoniko at 1:19 AM on January 12 [8 favorites]

what twoplussix said + !!!!!!
posted by ouke at 4:04 AM on January 12

After reading the GQ article I have no intention of seeing Dau. Here’s a description of the director depriving a woman of sleep, then sexually harassing her, and then firing her for not reciprocating his wildly inappropriate advances:
For someone so clearly questing after control and adulation, Dau was the best thing that could possibly happen. Building the Institute gave Khrzhanovsky more than a film to shoot. It made him king, with all the kingly prerogatives—like picking his court. A typical case is Yulia, a wispy, beautiful graduate of a prestigious directing workshop who was brought to Kharkov to interview for one of Khrzhanovsky's seemingly limitless "assistant director" jobs. What her duties would be remained unclear. Once at the compound, Yulia waited for over six hours; finally the director showed up. "Hi," said Yulia, "I've been waiting for you the whole day." "Thank you," answered Khrzhanovsky, "I've been waiting for you my whole life."

They had a two-hour conversation about art, after which she was sent to the wardrobe department to be dressed in 1952 garb. ("Make her a beauty," ordered Khrzhanovsky.) The hairdo alone took two hours. Finally, by 1 a.m., Yulia was shown the set.

There they talked for two hours more, until 3 a.m., this time in private. The questioning quickly switched from art to sex. When did you lose your virginity? Can you come up to a guy in a club and fuck him without finding out as much as his name? Are any of your friends whores? ("I couldn't understand whether he meant professionals or just slutty," Yulia says. "By that time, I was well into my second sleepless night. I just wanted it all over with so I could go to sleep.")

The director wouldn't make an actual move—that wasn't his style—but clearly expected her to throw herself at him. "When I got out," remembers Yulia, "everyone was like, 'Did he ask you about sleeping with other women?' That seemed to be an important part of his interview process." In the morning, when she saw Khrzhanovsky, she started uncontrollably shaking with disgust. Soon after, an assistant curtly told her to leave: "You and Ilya have very differing outlooks on life."

People like Yulia number in the many dozens. Some lasted a day, others a month. Some say they'd happily work with Khrzhanovsky again, others claim something akin to PTSD. "It's almost slavery," writes one former crew member in a blog. "But Ilya managed to make everyone think they were part of something truly great." "Working here," notes another, "is like being that guy who wanted to be killed and eaten, and finding a maniac who wants to kill and eat you. Perfect reciprocity."
posted by Kattullus at 6:23 AM on January 12 [23 favorites]

I've been curious about this since I first read about it years ago. I think I'm glad it's finally going to be a thing, but I don't know if I actually need to see it, in any of its forms.

The really interesting thing would be to show clips to, say, my grandmother-in-law (who taught pedagogy to science teachers in the Soviet Union) and find out if it feels accurate to her.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 7:45 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Robert del Naja and Brian Eno!!!

this sounds fascinating.
posted by supermedusa at 10:56 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]

I'll be surprised if this male power fantasy has anything more to offer us than the other million male power fantasies before it.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:14 AM on January 12 [7 favorites]

Thanks Kattullus and FirstMateKate.

The premise is fascinating.

The reality seems to be that a megalomaniac has come up with a plausible excuse for maintaining his own personal fiefdom, complete with human puppets expected to submit to his every whim 24/7 or immediately get pushed out. Filming seems to be an afterthought.

Revolting that this cult gets funding when so many worthwhile art projects struggle for cash.
posted by doornoise at 11:26 AM on January 12 [3 favorites]

Kind of interesting how, when initially proposed, this must have seemed like such a revolutionary idea. Now if I tried to describe it to someone, they’d probably be like, “Oh yeah, it’s a reality show.”

Still, I’m super curious what the end result is, and whether or not it’ll live up to the hype. I’ll prolly check it out if it ever comes to NYC.
posted by panama joe at 11:34 AM on January 12 [3 favorites]

Audience members will be required to respond a number of questions about themselves.

“We have created an algorithm which will generate a psychometric profile of you which will be embedded in your visa,” explained d’Anglejan-Chatillon. “When you come to the entrance, you will collect your visa and it will be twinned with a smartphone which we will give you as we take yours away.”

This smartphone will contain personalised data about visitors and will work both as a guide and as a surveillance mechanism.

Ha ha ha ha ha. No.
posted by valkane at 1:03 PM on January 12 [6 favorites]

Yeeeeeeah, unless it's a life or death or life or prison situation, I'm not willing to give up my identity (which unfortunately due to a confluence of modern life things outside of my control ) resides on my smartphone
posted by Faintdreams at 3:38 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]

posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 4:59 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]

So, what I'm getting here is, "If Sleep No More ran without breaks for three years, without an audience but with cameras, all directed by R. Kelly." How far off am I?
posted by belarius at 8:10 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]

Can’t say definitively that it is a product of too much money-launderable money that needed laundering and a guy with the chutzpah to try and help out an oligarch in need... but that’s where the money’s coming from.

The daily paper from Berlin’s take on this whole thing is kinda hilariously side-eye-y :

Sie kreisen um die Figur des russischen Physik-Nobelpreisträgers Lew Landau (1908 – 1968) und die Stalin-Zeit. „Dau“ bedeutet nicht, wie im Netz, „Dümmster anzunehmender User“, sondern war der Spitzname des Wissenschaftlers, Utopisten und Sex-Gurus Landau...

(Roughly) “it’s about the Russian Nobel laureate Lew Landau (1908-1968) and Stalin’s era. DAU doesn’t mean, like in the Internet “lowest common denominator” (German for l.c.d. (socially not mathematically) is d.a.u.), but is the nick-name of the scholar, utopian, and sex-guru Landau...”

The article goes on to mention the Phenomen Productions office is in Mayfair and generally, you know, Russian money is behind this whole crazy thing.

Apparently it’s planned to come to Berlin as well as London. Might be worth a look, might just be a big, sloppy mess. An ode to the intersection of money/art/and grasping monomania.
posted by From Bklyn at 9:17 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]

Big, amorphous, lunatic film project about Soviet era? Sounds great!

Literally everything said/explained/implied about the director's view of/treatment of women? Oh good gawd, get it the fuck away from me forever.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:46 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]

I am saddened that this project is pronounced the same as my first name... That said, Uber-grossness aside I'm curious to have a look, but if they think I'm going to drop off my phone for theirs after some artsy scientology-auditing they are sadly mistaken.
posted by hilberseimer at 5:39 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

"After reading the GQ article I have no intention of seeing Dau. Here’s a description of the director depriving a woman of sleep, then sexually harassing her, and then firing her for not reciprocating his wildly inappropriate advances:"

I have every intention of seeing this... thing, but I will do so in a way that does not create any economic reward to his behaviour. "Piracy" can never be unethical but it's instances like this where it goes from not "un-ethical" to the only viable ethical option.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:59 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]

This doesn’t really strike me as a pirate-able experience, unless you’re literally talking about boarding the exhibition by force and helping yourself to its bounties.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 3:33 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]

I am not making any of the following up, including the bit about FileMaker Pro:

So uh, I was invited to meet a friend in London at one of the Dau spaces. Apparently they had amassed so much footage that they were reaching out to the MIT MediaLab to figure out if there was something better than the FileMakerPro-era stuff film studios use. I got a chance to meet up with some of my online circle of friends in MA whom I'd not yet met in person, and got to meet some folks whose research I'd followed for quite some time.

My real name sounds exactly like that of one of the MIT researchers I'd always followed if you're in a crowded room, so after I'd gone through the KGB photo shoot concierge process, I introduced myself to people and created a minor comedy of errors. It's okay because it turns out my noise-mask namesake and I have some friends in common and a shared interest in their line of work.

The friend who invited me started showing me all of the stuff that privileged white dudes tend not to look for, and I began to see it as a rather niche Disneyland where the staff were treated poorly. Some of it was part of the theatre, and you could see the melodrama, but some looked just like habit that was either there before or had begun to grind into people.

It's become rather obvious for us to look for curated artisanal roughness in things. Also I grew up around groups of Russians who'd fled Russia in the 50s. So it wasn't as transporting to be in a room full of old glassware with cyrillic labels in masking tape telling you which kind of obscure siberian plum the vodka was infused with. Also I'd worked long enough for rich technocrats who wanted to be One Of The Cool Kids to pick up on that dynamic.

We all kind of left with a feeling that while this guy was no Stalin, he was definitely a jerk on par with Walt Disney at the very least.

To this day I like to make references to when this friend and I met up in Soviet Russia. And they have to apologetically explain "no no, that really happened actually.."
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 11:12 AM on January 19 [2 favorites]

Of course I realise now that everyone I've described in the above comment is likely heads down on the Mystery Hunt. I probably shouldn't bother them about Dau right now!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 11:12 AM on January 19

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