Cynicism Takes a Break at TED, Thanks to Three Artists

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By Marsha Lederman

At a party last November thrown by U2 (with whom he has also worked), [Chris Milk] was introduced to a UN adviser who said he was going to a refugee camp in Jordan and suggested it would be great to film something there in virtual reality. “I grabbed him and said, ‘This is exactly what I’ve been saying we need to be doing,’” Milk recalled. A month later, he was in Jordan with his ball of cameras capturing the Syrian refugee camp at every angle, in 360 degrees. “My name is Sidra. I am 12 years old, I am in the fifth grade, I am from Syria and there are problems,” begins the resulting work, Clouds Over Sidra.

Watching it is an astonishing experience, beginning in the desert, through which Sidra’s family fled, and immersing you in the refugee camp, her home for more than a year. You smile as you meet its young inhabitants and shudder at the camp’s vastness.

In January, Milk took the film to the World Economic Forum, in Davos where global leaders – the kinds of people who can truly effect change – were immersed in this virtual world. “And they were affected by it,” he told the TED audience.


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Gabrielle Brown