Bystander is an interactive film installation created based on the genuine experience of a survivor of child abuse. Can you imagine how children react when they are suffered from agony and cannot flee or fight? Their minds might launch the program to “digitalize” their hosts, to detach hosts from their thoughts, emotions, and memories. The hosts then become numb, apathetic, which ensures their survival. This is not science fiction but the real story of a child abuse survivor who suffered from depersonalization disorder. She can only live in a world of a third-person computer game and watch herself from a distance. This installation consists of a projection installation and an interactive film.

Freud assumes that the human mind is structured in three-layer: consciousness, preconsciousness, and subconsciousness. Consciousness serves as a scanner to perceive information and store them either in preconsciousness or subconsciousness. Preconsciousness consists of anything that could potentially be brought into the conscious mind at any time. Subconsciousness is the repository of repressed memories, emotions, and instincts, which are normally unpleasant or unacceptable. The trauma-related emotions and memories of PTSD patients are repressed in their subconsciousness, which will be stirred up when the patients encountered stimuli in their daily life. That’s how the intrusive symptom is formed. The outmost part of my work represents the consciousness of a PTSD patient, and the innermost part represents her subconsciousness. Therefore, the projection mapping which shows the trauma-related memories of the girl is blurred at the exterior and becomes more and more clear toward the interior. At the end of the tunnel is the most hidden subconscious world of the patient, which the audience could experience interactively.

When exposed to irresistible stimuli, patient with depersonalization disorder evades reality in the way of pealing off consciousness from their physical being, which is similar to the experience of suddenly changing from a subjective perspective to a third-person perspective in a game. The player can only observe the character that he/ she is controlling from a distance. Additionally, to simulate the nightmares and intrusive memories and feelings often experienced by PTSD patients, I recorded my own nightmares and visualized them through cinematic language. The film is blended with the game scenes to create a sense of oppression and suffocation(see the video below).

Since a person with depersonalization disorder lacks emotion and passion for their life, they will have a strong “unreal” feeling for the world they existed. To integrate this idea into my work, I designed a scene that is full of “information” that can be read and interpreted such as texts, images, color, shape, textures and etc. Tons of indications are sent out from those objects, and we perceived most of them without awareness. What if the appearance of this information is not random but pre-programmed by someone who intends to affect us by invading our subconsciousness? what if the thoughts that we think come from our consciousness do not originate from us? What if our physical being is only a consciousness receiver but not a generator then where does our consciousness exist? To transform all these questions that the protagonist cast about reality into images, I create a place surrounded by several giant and mysterious species. All the objects that send out information are controlled by those giant species. The human who lives inside is entangled and struggled without realizing it. 



◎Global culture award at Stuttgarter Filmwinter /01.2020-02.2020


◎Stuttgarter Filmwinter /01.2020-02.2020/kunstbezirk, Stuttgart, Germany

Media Coverages

◎Media art blog berlin von Ursula Drees


◎BIO·FICTION Science Art Film, Vienna  /09.2019 

◎Phantom Horizons Poject, Kuenstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin / 02.2020 

◎Relentless Melt No. 20: Hong Kong Animation Experiments/ 02.2021 

◎Microwave festival 2021: Connecting the dots/ 05.2021       



Liu Chang