Sci-Fi Top 5 with Simon Del Favero

To celebrate our latest exhibition Synthetic, which explores the collision of science fiction and reality, we have invited our exhibiting artists to share their Top 5 favourite science fiction works. From books to films, TV to soundtracks, artist share their memories and experiences delving into our predicted future and its impact on their practice.



As a teenager, Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko was one of my favourite films. The initial theatrical release allowed for diverse interpretation with the meaning of many scenes widely discussed and scrutinised. I remember coming to different conclusions with each viewing. The protagonist, Donnie Darko, is warned by a figure in a rabbit costume that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. Upon returning home he discovers that a jet engine has crashed into his bedroom. Donnie starts experiencing strange visions, some of the film’s most memorable images are of Donnie discovering he has an uncanny type of prescience. Donnie Darko impressed upon me the importance of audience interpretation, it demonstrated that subtle ambiguities can be conceptually compelling. Personally, my favourite scene is the early morning opening sequence. Donnie has been riding his bicycle around the hills and is lying in the middle of the road, he stands to watch the sun rise and chuckles to himself. It doesn't fit in with the next few scenes and is very representative of the initial release’s cryptic nature.



Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 film Ghost In The Shell is lauded as one of the greatest anime films ever made and with good reason. The film employs novel animation techniques and a stunning score. However its greatest achievement is the prescient and progressive story. Adapted from Masamune Shirow’s manga of the same name, the film follows Major Motoko Kusanagi (a cyborg whose entire body save her brain is synthetic) of Public Security Section 9 as she and her team investigate the actions of a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master. The investigation into the identity of the hacker unfolds parallel to Kusanagi’s questioning of the nature of existence and the effect of her augmentations. It helped me imagine what a post-human environment might look like and how identity and the body could change. More importantly, Ghost In The Shell and its concepts proved to be a great influence on Ka, my series of mannequin portraits.


Half-Life 2 is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most significant video games of all time. This is due to its use of advanced physics, animation, sound, AI, graphics, and narrative (which have proved to be highly influential in contemporary video game design). I was first drawn to the game because of its fully featured world, diverse play styles, and interactivity. In this world scientists accidentally open a portal to another dimension attracting the attention of a multi-dimensional empire who implement a brutal police state. The player takes control of theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman, who with the help of resistance forces and other scientists works to free humanity. The designers took great consideration in building engaging environments, sounds, and minimal user interfaces. I have not come across a game since that takes as much care in building such a well-rounded and nuanced experience. The game mechanics were wonderfully immersive, I deeply enjoyed the manner in which you could interact with the world. I’ve found that design can be just as powerful as narrative in communicating an idea.



I distinctly remember watching this series on SBS when I was younger & being enthralled by Hideaki Anno’s inventive use of religious imagery. Neon Genesis Evangelion is an apocalyptic anime set in a future Tokyo after a worldwide cataclysm. The television series centres on Shinji, Rei, and Asuka. The three teenagers pilot giant cyborgs in combat against monstrous beings known as Angels. The episodes predominantly explore the experiences and emotions of the pilots, referencing psychoanalysis and religion to great effect. Again, like Donnie Darko, I’m interested in how Neon Genesis Evangelion complicates viewers attempts to form unambiguous interpretations. The Judeo-Christian iconography and terms as well as the subtle psychoanalytic references, such as the phrases used by characters or episode titles, were strangely captivating. I enjoyed the way the writers used the show as a vehicle for these more personal concepts.



William Tenn's The Sickness, published in 1955, tells the story of a joint Russian and American expedition to Mars during a period of significant political tension between the two superpowers. During a patrol one member of the Russian crew discovers a vast but uninhabited city and upon returning to the ship develops a strange debilitating fever and is quarantined. Slowly the remaining crew succumb to the newly dubbed Belov’s Disease. After the final crew member succumbs to the disease something extraordinary is made apparent. I originally read Tenn’s short story following a friend’s recommendation and was immediately struck by the story’s take on disease. Specifically how disease can change the perception and understanding of our bodies and our physical existence. It impressed upon me the possibility that sickness can open doors to a different way of ‘being’.


To learn more about our latest exhibition Synthetic and its themes join us for a unique workshop exploring photography's relationship to surveillance and data on Wednesday the 10th and 17th of August.

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