This is Episode 2 of Naive and Dangerous, the podcast series about emergent media I am recording together with my colleague Dr Chris Moore. In this episode we discuss the notion of the cyborg and the tension between being a cyborg and being a human. We start by unpacking the various meanings injected in the concept of a cyborg, using recent movies such as Alita Battle Angel and Ghost in the Shell as a starting point. As is our habit, we engage in extensive speculative analysis of the cyborg trope, from contemporary cinema, to cyberpunk, early science fiction imaginaries of robots, the assembly line, and ancient mythology. In the process we develop a definition of cyborg/humans and manage to have a lot of fun. Have a listen.
How strange when sci-fi shorts made by artists non-aligned with any studio have higher production quality than legacy industry content produced at orders of magnitude the cost. How strange when creativity, production quality, and distribution are less and less associated with vertical organizations from the legacy industry, but are instead distributed often in the unlikeliest of places. Two examples. The Gift is a sci-fi short shot in Russia and directed by Carl E. Rinsch. It blends a gray dystopian future with the modern-day streets of Moscow [I love the militsia Ladas chasing an android on a futuristic bike], and manages to tell more in five minutes than Oblivion in one hour. A lasting image I keep returning to is the unicorn, which we never see, but know that it is desired by humans and robots alike. What could be desired equally by humans and machines at the cost of their lives?
The second short, Rosa is a haunting animation created by comic-artist Jesús Orellana. It reminds me, in spirit if not in realization, of some of the Animatrix shorts – the post-apocalyptic landscape inhabited by cyborg-like creatures, the interface through which the cyborgs interact with reality, and of course the style of the battles. The protagonist and her enemies seem to be of the same species, but while Rosa brings life her enemies are trying to extinguish it. The film is quite poetic in that life is started by a machine, and the place where the machine goes to die is a garden [in the ruins of a Gothic cathedral]. Natura ex machina?