DAU was a scientific experimentation held in Kharkiv between 2009 that has gathered more than 400 people for 3 years.
These people came to this Ukrainian village converted into a bunker totally isolated from the outside world to experience 30 years of the Soviet regime between 1938 and 1968.
They were bakers, scientists, nurses…
They lived, loved, had even children…
And everything was captured by the cameras of the russian director Ilya Andreevich Khrzhanovsky.
From those 700 hours of videos was created the DAU exhibition. 14 movies were mounted and offered to the public for viewing 24 hours a day 7 days a week between the 24th of January and the 17th of February 2019.
So, all that noise for only a few movies, you’d say?
DAU has much more to offer: it’s a real immersion into the violence of the USSR.
A real experience
As soon as you step into one of the three locations where the exhibition takes place and that are constantly connected by the “Red Triangle”, you are immersed into a really tense and stressful musical atmosphere: it triggers a constant anxiety that never leaves until you get out of the venue.
All the staff wears grey uniforms. The map of the exhibition is a mystery. You don’t have your phone since you had to leave it at the lockers at the entrance. The events are announced through the speakers 10 minutes before they start.
To put it in a nutshell, you are totally lost, you wonder why you are here, what you are supposed to understand and look for… without forgetting to mention those creepy wax statues that are spread out throughout the space and that are the replicas of the 400 participants.
You can also give a try to the food and drinks of that time in the exact same dishes that they used back then: for 2 euros, get a can meal and eat it with a 1-euro pint of beer or Russian vodka shot.
Movies and artistic experiences
After collecting my 6-hour visa (yes, you don’t buy a ticket for this exhibit but a VISA that allows you to travel to the DAU world) on the Place du Châtelet, you can access the experience on one of its three places. Inside, the possibilities are endless: depending on the hours of day or night that you are in, you can experience a piano concert, a modern dancing performance, get your questions answered by a shaman, spend 30 minutes talking about your DAU experience with an active listener or just enjoy a beer and some food at one of the bars.
Of course, you can also join one of the multiple projections of the DAU cinematographic project or grab a private box where you can watch individually scenes on-demand. The movies are maybe the most disturbing I have ever seen since they don’t follow any scenario, they are just the raw reflection of those people’s everyday lives. And they can be as slow, as absurd, as unexplainable as our lives can be. What’s the point then? You get into an intimacy and a truth that you can rarely approach in real life: imagine being in the bedroom of a couple while they are arguing about the man’s adultery, imagine observing the same family at the breakfast the day after and witnessing the children asking about the arguments they heard, imagine finally following another couple while they are having sex, and not the kind of sex that you can see in movies or pornography, but the one that you and I can have. Some could argue that the whole thing is voyeurism, I didn’t feel it this way but more as an invite to think about the way this society worked, how our society works and how we could improve it.