Abstract- Timothy Druckrey

Cinemedia: Archaeologies of Computation and AI in Cinema

Since its origins, cinema has been riveted by both mechanization and culture, by its material apparatuses and its evolving metaphors. The ‘presence’ of the machine, as omnipotent technical gaze or as observer of mechanization itself, fills the archives of cinema history. By the 1950s the computer made its appearance in mainstream, experimental, and documentary film. Simultaneously a range of materials emerged from corporate archives, promotional films, television documentaries. Science gone awry, scientists gone mad, machines out of control were replaced by autonomous technologies, malevolent programmers, sentient—and ultimately sovereign—computers were contrasted by celebrations of astonishing progress, laments over the consequences of automation, or the dangers of machine intelligence.
Godard’s Alphaville, Fassbinder’s Welt am Draht, Marker’s Level 5, Scott’s Bladerunner, the Wachowski’s The Matrix, Rusnack’s The 13th Floor, Cronenberg’s eXistenZ, the list is long, are indicative of an on-going interrogation of the reverberations of computing, simulation, and artificial intelligence in cinema. Documentaries like The Machine that Changed the World, Computer Pioneers, Dammbeck’s Das Netz, or Curtis’ The Century of the Self, looked more specifically at stages and implications in the development of computer culture. Numerous promotional materials films and videos tracked particular technologies and implementations.
This presentation will be copiously illustrated with excerpts from this material with a particular focus on developing both a historical approach to a fascinating tradition and a critical assessment of the appeal of simulation, the consequences of artificial intelligence, the significance of these materials as a crucial component in the evolving histories of the media arts.