Dark, sterile and dystopic at the same time, Greek artist George Drivas’s films depict a retro-futuristic life in an era of mass state surveillance that ends with unexpected results. Using the city and civic architecture as a stage, the films explore the possibilities of experiencing all facets of life, including falling in love, under such a regime. It also seems to use the architecture depicted as commentary on world utopian visions, in some respects.
Beta Test (2005)In Beta Test (2005) 2 subjects, clinically named ‘Model #1’ and ‘Model #2’, taking part in a controlled experiment of sorts, are sent to different points in a city that’s almost empty, where they wander around and eventually meet each other. Viewers watch from the point of view of the controller, as the subtitles display the metadata, a log of the events and his thoughts about it.
What starts off as an experiment, or some sort of a covert operation, turns into a date, as they meet, have a chat and decide to go out together. The civic architecture is at once a backdrop, a stageset and also represents the cartesian regime that they are living under, where there are rules governing what they should do and when. It seems that human friendship or courtship is something unexpected, upsetting and even subversive, as they start missing their required communiques and departing from schedule. The system meanwhile, records and broadcasts their every move. At the end of the evening they fall in love, and after spending the night together, leave in the morning. As the time comes for them to depart and go their separate ways, back to where they came from, they both suddenly decide to spend some time contemplating their next move. In the end they both ‘disappear and are never heard from again, forever’ which seems to imply that they eloped and have somehow left the system for good. The title ‘Beta Test’ means it is the second of an experiment, where the outcome is unknown and where they are the test subjects. Why it is the second is unclear. While the system carefully monitors their every move, they are not physically prevented from being together and ultimately have the freedom to leave the system altogether. This suggests that they are not bound by anything, but are subjected to ‘societal pressure’ to conform to some predetermined ‘norm’. The test thus seems to be whether they will follow the norm, what they have been conditioned to do, or if they would follow their hearts. As Drivas himself has stated, the story on another level references the city of Berlin itself; how it was divided in two and had to overcome some resistance to reunite as one. The scenes themselves were kept non-descript so as to keep it to what he calls, a ‘non-place’, a universal place devoid of national characteristics making the story a globalized one. Drivas also describes Beta Test as one where it is expected that some part of the test will fail or not go according to plan. The question is whether this failure, caused by these deviants, is fatal or a rejuvenating source of new life. And that is the experiment.