XR HISTORY AWARD 2022

Ein erweiterter Blick auf das, was war!

Geschichte ist ein machtvolles Mittel, das zu oft manipuliert wird. Gerade in der gegenwärtigen Situation ist es wichtiger denn je, faktenbasierte Geschichten über die Vergangenheit in neuen Formaten zu erzählen.

Deshalb haben wir 2022 erstmalig ein kreatives XR-Projekt gesucht, das unseren Blick auf die Vergangenheit erweitert und neue Zugänge zur Erinnerungskultur liefert. Mit dem XR History Award hat die Körber-Stiftung gemeinsam mit dem VRHAM! Festival eine Auszeichnung initiiert, die den Blick auf das Gestern erweitert. Bis Ende April 2022 konnten Projekte eingereicht werden, die durch den Einsatz immersiver Technologie Geschichte, Geschichtsvermittlung und Erinnerungskultur erlebbar macht. Dabei waren uns sämtliche Ansätze willkommen: künstlerisch, dokumentarisch oder erzählerisch.

Der XR History Award ist mit 5.000 Euro dotiert und wird von einer internationalen Expert:innen-Jury vergeben. Unsere Jury-Mitglieder stammen aus unterschiedlichsten Bereichen, sodass die Projekte ganzheitlich bewertet wurden.

In diesem Jahr erreichten uns mehr als 80 Einreichungen aus 22 Ländern. Und nun steht das Gewinnerprojekt fest, das auf der Eröffnungsfeier der „ULTRAMARIN – An Immersive Exhibition“ des VRHAM! Festivals am 2. Juni 2022 im Hamburger Oberhafenquartier ausgezeichnet wurde. Die Laudatio hielt der Journalist Joachim Telgenbüscher, der als Ressortleiter Geschichte für Gruner & Jahr tätig ist, und der mit mehr als 160.000 Follower:innen auf Twitter Menschen mit verrückten Fakten aus der Geschichte versorgt.

Gewinner des XR History Awards - Child of Empire

Eine der größten Zwangsmigrationen der Geschichte

Der erste XR History Award geht an Child of Empire der Initiative Project Dastaan. Der animierte Virtual Reality-Film befasst sich mit der Aufteilung Britisch-Indien in Indien und Pakistan 1947. Ein historisches Ereignis, das bis heute als eine der größten Zwangsmigrationen der Menschheitsgeschichte gilt. Aus persönlicher Perspektive zweier Männer, die die Teilung miterlebten, wird die Geschichte rekapituliert. Child of Empire bietet eine neue Perspektive auf das Thema der erzwungenen Migration und was diese für Einzelne bedeutet. 75 Jahre nach der Teilung Britisch-Indien und in einer Zeit, in der Flucht allgegenwärtig ist, ist dieses Thema weltweit aktueller denn je.

Interview

Child of Empire ist nicht nur ein VR-Film, sondern eingebettet in das grenzübergreifende Versöhnungsangebot des Project Dastaan. Denn bis heute ist die Teilung für viele Menschen auf dem Subkontinent eine lebendige Erfahrung, gleichzeitig stehen sich Indien und Pakistan im Grenzgebiet Punjab immer noch feindselig gegenüber. Das Project Dastaan versucht, Menschen auf beiden Seiten zueinander zu führen. Die Initiator:innen des Projekts machen es Geflüchteten möglich, ihre lang verlassene Heimat in einem 360 Grad-VR-Erlebnis zu besuchen und entdecken – das erste Mal nach rund 75 Jahren.

Mitbegründer Sparsh Ahuja kam aus Melbourne in Australien nach Hamburg, um den XR History Award stellvertretend für sein internationales Team entgegenzunehmen. Das Team des Project Dastaan setzt sich aus Menschen zusammen, die aus England, Pakistan, Indien und dem Iran stammen. Teilweise haben sie einen sehr persönlichen Zugang zur Teilung British-Indiens. So auch Ahuja, der die Geschichte seiner beiden Großväter in Child of Empire verarbeitet.

In seiner Dankesrede sprach Ahuja von der Besonderheit der erzählten Geschichten. Denn was beide Perspektiven in dem VR-Film eint, ist, dass die vermeintlich verfeindeten Seiten, sich gegenseitig beschützten – der Muslim den Hindu und andersherum. Child of Empire ist ein Lehrstück darüber, wie VR eingesetzt werden kann, um Geschichte wahrhaftig erlebbar zu machen. Deshalb tourt das Team um Project Dastaan nun durch unterschiedliche Länder, auch nach Pakistan und in die Punjab-Region, um noch mehr Menschen an ihrer Idee teilhaben zu lassen.

Foto: Körber-Stiftung

Die Jury

Laudatio von Joachim Telgenbüscher

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

to begin with I want to say how honoured I am to be given the opportunity tonight to say some words of appreciation about the winner of the very first XR History Award. “Child of Empire” by Project Dastaan.

I don’t think I give too much away, if I say, that this is a truly well-deserved win. So congratulations to Sparsh who is with us tonight. But let me also offer a warm thank you to his collaborators. To co-creator Erfan Saadati, art-director Stephen Stephenson, writer Omi Zola Gupta and the two producers Sam Dalrymple and Saadia Gardezi. Child of Empire, like most good things in life, is a team effort.

Some people I talked to have praised it as a lighthouse project. And you can see why they chose this term: Like a lighthouse it stands out and shows us the way. In this case to a new way of experiencing and telling history. On the other hand, I guess, lighthouses are pretty much outdated. So “lighthouse project” might be a bit of a misnomer. “Child of Empire” is more like a satellite navigation system. A feat of high-tech. And at the same time a piece of art.

Most of all, however, it is hugely relevant. Although it deals with events that took place 75 years ago it still resonates. In a way, it tells a story that is sadly being repeated at this very moment. And you can sum up this relevance in one neat, but horrible number: One hundred million. This is the number of forcibly displaced people in the world today. A record-breaking figure only recently reported by the UNHCR.

Child of Empire” resonates with our present because it brings to life one of the largest forced migrations in human history: the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan at the end of British colonial rule. Over 14 million people had to migrate, Hindus to India, Muslims to newly created Pakistan. This was an act of ethnic cleansing, a brutal postscript of imperial rule, that killed one million people – either by hunger, disease or outright violence. Those that did survive ended up in refugee camps. Even today, most of the refugees have not been able to return home.

In Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, which is also widely spoken in parts of India – Dastaan – as in Project Dastaan – simply means “story”. A very fitting name, I think. For Sparsh and his team are not only storytelling pioneers, they are also collectors of stories. They have conducted and filmed interviews with Partition survivors in the UK, India and Pakistan. This remarkable endeavour aims to build peace through remembrance. “Child of Empire” is the product of this work.

As such it gives rise to important questions. For example: How do we keep memories alive? How do we do justice to different perspectives? And most of all: How can we prevent that the memories of the past fuel the conflicts of the present? For the relationship between India and Pakistan has been troubled ever since the Partition.

But before I talk about “Child of Empire” in some more detail, please allow me to talk briefly about my thoughts, or even worries, when I first heard about the XR History Award. I was wondering: Do Extended Reality and History really fit together? Isn’t history meant to be written? Doesn’t it have to be enshrined in heavy monographs or well-curated museum exhibitions? And yes, there was another worry: nausea. I was seriously afraid, that the VR-experience would make me travel-sick. I’m a bit prone to that.

But then I visited the offices of the Körber-Stiftung, sat down on a wheeled chair, put on a VR-headset and dived headlong into the world that Project Dastaan has so brilliantly created. And brilliant it is.

First of all, it is a very personal experience.

Suddenly you are in the room with two old men having a hot drink by the light of a flickering candle. They both have experienced the Partition as children, both are refugees, but from different sides. One is an Indian Hindu, the other a Pakistani Muslim. They take you with them as they tell their story. The context – always a challenge in presenting history to a wider audience – is conveyed in a short, beautiful theatrical tour through Indian history leading up to independence.

One of the remarkable things about “Child of Empire” is exactly this sense of balance. We are not presented with one national narrative, but with two perspectives, that are treated with the same respect.

And all of this is fact-based. I cannot stress this enough. It is all based on the testimony of witnesses. One of them is – if I’m not mistaken – Sparsh Ahuja’s own granddad, who migrated from the West Punjab to New Delhi as a young boy.

Child of Empire” tells you their story. In the VR-World this means: You experience their story. You see the horrors of the Partition through the eyes of a seven-year-old child. Which makes it even more forceful. You are with them in the cramped train, on the move and in the dismal refugee camp. These are moments that really get to you and convey the story with a force that – I have to admit it – a print article never could.

At the same time “Child of Empire” creates some beautiful and also quite haunting images: Like dead people dissolving into writing. But it also uses the powers of the VR-engine to rather overwhelm you at times. The feeling when you are lifted up far above a map of the subcontinent, while the new borders appear like lava-filled cracks beneath you, these images will stay with you long after you’ve taken the VR-goggles off.

As a historical journalist I have a catch-phrase: “The telling of history is an industry of the future”. Believe me, it does sound nicer in German. “Geschichtsvermittlung ist eine Zukunftsbranche”. What I mean by that is that it will be increasingly important in the future to find new ways to engage with the past. And also to present a factual, balanced and sympathethic view of historical events. Just like “Child of Empire” does. We’re currently seeing how historical narratives are distorted by political players all around the world and how they are weaponized in current conflicts. We have to combat these lies. We have to put the record straight, we have to fight for reconciliation. More than ever.

That’s why the message of “Child of Empire” – its emphasis on factual correctness, its multi-perspective approach and its tone of reconciliation – is so crucial. That’s why this project deserves this award more than anything. That it is at the same time accessible to a generation which perhaps is no longer that familiar anymore with bulky monographs is great, too. It really does tell history in a new and refreshing way.

So congratulations again! And thank you very much, Sparsh Ahuja, for giving us “The Child of Empire”.

Impressionen & Highlight-Video

  • Fotos: Catrin-Anja Eichinger

Highlight-Video vom XR History Award