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Art Culture Criticism Film Observations

Silencing the Conscious: The Representation of the API Body in Ex Machina // published in Hyphen

ex_machina

The plot line dictates, culturally and historically, a dominant narrative told many times in film and media. I wish it were different. With the myriad of racial, cultural, and social stories flooding the media, visibility of API bodies is still so very far behind in the mainstream culture even when it is inserted into film as an aside.

From two teenage boys creating a women in the 1980s film Weird Science to a robotics scientist creating a Voice Input Child Identicant (VICI) in cult classic sitcom Small Wonder, the impact of robotics and artificial intelligence on the human condition isn’t anything new. The profound interest in artificial intelligence has gained popularity with surrealist images of Google’s AI perceiving images in nature to self-driving cars. The rapid development in the realms of science enhance existing technologies to make our lives convenient. But the dominant narratives persist in popular culture as seen in the Alex Garland’s directorial film debut in Ex Machina. Since the release of the film, critics laud the triumph of soft spoken and seemingly delicate feminine robot Ava. As she speaks to Turing tester, Caleb, a programmer for Bluebook (Google-esque technology company), we realize she is well aware of the surroundings and has even developed qualities of human behavior that mimic her ability to think of ways to escape her captor-maker.

However, the film seemed to backfire as an interpretation of the battle between the sexes. Nathan, maker of Ava, created a female AI based on Caleb’s pornographic preferences, which reminds us that Nathan himself knew to use one of his own employees as a ploy in confirming his abilities and deftness in using programming and coding to materialize his fantasies and desires. The creation of Ava is also a way for Nathan to assert his control over Caleb.

Read the rest of the piece here

By Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos (b. 1978) is a Filipina American writer, artist, and educator whose academic and research interests include feminist media histories, critical medical anthropology, race and technology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She is a Ph.D. student in Film and Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz as a Eugene V. Cota-Robles fellow. Her work as been exhibited at Ars Electronica, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the GLBT Historical Society.

Her writing appears in art21, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, Ars Technica, Vice Motherboard, and SF MOMA’s Open Space. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” was published in The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture. She is a co-founder of REFRESH, a politically-engaged art and curatorial collective and serves as the program manager for the Processing Foundation.

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