The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and France Télévisions join forces to launch a new application: The Cancer of Time, available for free in the App Store and the Google Play Store, and compatible with almost all types of smartphones. The application is the result of their first collaboration and, with its innovative narrative form, removes barriers between genres and paves the way for other hybrid art projects.
When did we become unable to do nothing? How much time do we spend without looking at our emails on our phones? Can we share a meal with family or friends without checking our messages? These questions are at the heart of a very modern phenomenon: the inability to do nothing, the avoidance of idleness. Today, we are increasingly connected: media sync to our personality and our behaviour more than ever before. They make us dependent. The tools that enable us to ward off boredom are magnified before boredom even has a chance to manifest itself.
This interactive mobile application makes us reconsider our chronic inability to do nothing. Through a philosophical and playful tale, the application leads us on the fringes of game and animation. With its characters and locations, the visuals, sound design and lively aesthetics are akin to animation film. The aim, however, must necessarily follow the gesture—a gesture that is sometimes minimal, slow, and even passive. In the end, we have nothing to lose except time… and nothing to gain except to start thinking about ways to use it.
In The Cancer of Time, the user accompanies a simple yet endearing character after a medical examination wherein he is thought to be afflicted by the evil of the century: the cancer of time. We then follow him in various situations, whether in the doctor’s waiting room, in a car stuck in traffic, or during a family meal.
The way the topic is handled is in fact very paradoxical: we use an application to think about how to respond to slowness and non-productivity, that is, how to praise wasting time… on a device that typically devours all of it.
Behind The Cancer of Time is a team of members from various creative environments that address interactive narrative forms in different ways: Ko-op Mode (a collective of videogame artists that explores the intersection between music, visual, and experimental design), Dominic Turmel (an independent interactive media writer and designer), Jean-François Nadeau (a versatile actor-creator), and Stéfan Boucher (a jack-of-all-trades sound designer). This invitation to waste time was incubated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in collaboration with the Open Documentary Lab, and is intended as a hybridisation of genres.
What if, in our perpetual quest to eschew boredom, we lose something? Idle time can be a space to reflect, to challenge oneself, and to question given ideas and the established order. It is time to reclaim one’s space—individually and collectively.