Delirious Departures

Sometimes it felt as if I was trying to see reality through a dream; other times it seemed as if an invisible twin brother was walking beside me, as if he were the opposite of my shadow.
— from Austerlitz, W.G. Sebald

In a time when traveling abroad is no longer evident and the nearness of others feels destabilising, CREW revisits the boundaries of substance and illusion with the installation Delirious Departures, transforming the Royal Museums of Fine Arts into a train departure hall. The place where travellers cross, say goodbye, make haste, wait. Where fragments of conversation, foreign languages, service announcements, a chilly draught, closing doors, footsteps, coffee slurping travellers and many other (inter)actions and sounds mingle.

The past few months CREW produced a series of 3D scans and images of train stations. Transformed to a VR environment and enhanced with embodiment and AI these snapshots evoke both recognition and alienation. These instances seem both familiar and post-apocalyptic. Past, present and future blend over, like dream and reality. The installation/performance Delirious Departures is inhabited by visitors, spectators and performers. You never really know whether the latter are human or artificial. Groups of active avatars crowd the social areas of the train station and interact with the participants. Actions and reactions are never inconsequential but always trigger a response. The train station is no longer a neutral crossroad but a place that confronts you with the other.

…is a triennial EU Horizon 2020 research project into Sentient Intelligent Agents: ‘sensitive’ avatars or digital people. Realism is interpreted broadly in this project: an avatar can appear photorealistically, but it is more important that it reacts naturally and that its behaviour can be understood from non-verbal communication also. Under the banner of this project CREW develops a series of experimental productions, Delirious Departures being one of them. PRESENT is executed in collaboration with academic and commercial partners: Inria (FR), University of Augsburg (DE), Brainstorm (ES), Framestore (UK), Cubic Motion (UK), Infocert (IT) en Pompeu Fabra University (ES).

The immersive performance Delirous Departures was inspired by Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas, The Vertigo Years by Philipp Blom and Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald.


Concept: Eric Joris & Isjtar
Technics: Isjtar & Haryo Sukmawanto
3D Design: Eric Joris, Isjtar & Haryo Sukmawanto
Technological research: Isjtar, Steven Maessen, Inria
Production: J.P. Deschepper
Coordination: Lauranne Nédée