Traceroute documentary review


★★★

Written and Directed by Johannes Grenzfurthner

Documentary film review by Hannah Sayer

“In the end, we’ll all become stories.”- Margaret Atwood.

It is fitting that Austrian artist Johannes Grenzfurthner chooses to begin his personal and reflective documentary Traceroute with this quote from Atwood. The viewer is guided on a journey through different stories and experiences of nerd culture and these all accumulate to define how places and people have shaped and inspired Grenzfurthner’s art and politics. Traceroute succeeds in being a fun and refreshing feature, even if you know very little about nerd culture.


The first part of the film serves as a funny and quirky introduction to Grenzfurthner himself in what presents itself as a scrap book of information about the artist and what has led him to take on this journey. This collage effect of using photography, video and voiceover makes this journey seem even more personal. Grenzfurthner explains how he grew up and lived through the first generation of the information age and it is his interest in the political and the philosophical implications of this in the digital age which makes this documentary accessible to a wider audience. He describes his fascination with nerd culture as starting as a fantasy and then growing, which resulted in him starting the group ‘monochrom’ in 1993, which is known for its left-wing politics and the website serves as a collaborative digital art community.

This introduction leads on to the road trip from the West to the East Coast of the USA. The quirky and ironic humour is effective throughout and this is showcased from the beginning when Grenzfurthner introduces the first stop on the road trip, San Francisco, as a place of endless opportunity, as well as homelessness. Within the various interviews that take place, there is a real sense that this is a collaborative exploration of creativity: of the old and the new, the past and the present, and the traditional and the digital. The use of photography and drawings interspersed between the interviews with various people associated with nerd culture shows an artistic approach to the material and these images act as reflective snapshots of moments in time, reinforcing the importance of looking back to the past as well as looking forward to the future of the digital age.

Grenzfurthner wrote, directed, edited and produced Traceroute and it certainly feels like the outcome is personal. However, the experiences and stories recorded come together to form a collaborative journey through nerd culture, which on the surface seems inaccessible to many without any interest in it. This documentary distorts expectations and the result is a feature that is very current and enjoyable. From Invasion of the Body Snatchers to J.G. Ballard, the narrative covers a vast range of mediums that contribute to what nerd culture means to Grenzfurthner.

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