Warhol was one of the great media-artists of the 20th century, an accomplished graphic designer and illustrator with a background in Madison Avenue in the late 1950s. Warhol became the most celebrated of all the artists exploring the imagery of popular culture, and almost surprisingly, he became simultaneously a leading figure in the American Film counter-culture. Famous for his replicated soup cans and Brillo boxes, his silk-screen prints of Marilyn, and his team of artists, art-workers, superstars, based at his studio – the Factory, Warhol experimented with several media in the Sixties (including developing his Exploding Plastic Inevitable light-show with the Velvet Underground), and he was still experimenting in the early 1980s – here with the multimedia Amiga (famed for its graphics, video and 3d modelling capabilities. Warhol is experimenting with Amiga’s early bitmap-editor or paintbox software on a prototype Amiga (it was finally launched in 1984 – the same year as Apple’s Macintosh (using the same chipset – the Motorola 68000). He quickly grabs the essence of the Paintbox – grabbing a video image of himself and manipulating textures and colours.
Great. In the 1960s the psychologist Alfred Yarbus investigated the way we actually see, proving once and for all that the eye is not a camera, contrary to the popular perceptual model, and that on the contrary, our vision is saccadic – we scan our field of view, with points of interest being examined in an attention-driven pattern, dependent on what task the viewer is performing. This is at last a kind of proof that the Cubists (Picasso, Braque, et al) were right – their paintings actually represent how we see the outside world.
For me, this was one of the first crowd-sourced music videos to really work. Coxon and Doff posted their music track on the web, calling for video-clips of steps to be sent in, and offering signed albums and tour tickets as an incentive. The submitted video-clips were assembled and composited by Doff and Coxon in a montaged video-cubist style promo video, featuring clips from 85 people in over 20 countries.
(The Smiling Madame Beudet) is a short French silent film made in 1922, directed by famed surrealist director Germaine Dulac. It is considered by many to be one of the first truly “feminist” films. It tells the story of an intelligent woman trapped in a loveless marriage. Her husband is used to playing a stupid practical joke. A frequent stunt is one in which he puts an empty revolver to his head and threatens to shoot himself. One day, while the husband is away, she puts bullets in the revolver. However, she is stricken with remorse and tries to retrieve the bullets the next morning. Her husband gets to the revolver first, only this time he points the revolver at her. The bullet misses her, and he thinks she was trying to commit suicide; he embraces her and says “How would I have lived without you?” (wikipedia)
Paul Otlet was a revolutionary ‘documentarist‘ – (a student of what we now call ‘information science’, or ‘information architecture’) . In the early 20th century, he conceived of a world library based on a universal decimal classification (akin to the Dewey Decimal Index), and in the 1930s published his masterwork: The Treatise on Documentation, along with a number of drawings and diagrams explaining his vision for the Munduneum – a world library. This diagram shows how we process information about the universe into categories, then into books and documents, which we classify and order into ontologies and eventually into some form of encyclopaedia. Our current most appropriate form for the encyclopaedia is the online, multimedia one we call wikipedia. Otlet was envisioning this in 1934.
“The illustrations from personal papers of Paul Otlet (Papiers Personnels Paul Otlet) are reproduced with the permission of the Mundaneum, 15 Rues Passages, B-700 Mons, Belgium (www.mundaneum.be). The author is highly indebted to Stéphanie Manfroid, the Director of the Mundaneum, for her kind assistance during his consultation of the archives.
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to document how Paul Otlet, founding-father of what is termed at present as “information science”, attempted to provide a complete “image of the world” (and reality in general) by establishing the scientific discipline he dubbed “documentation”. The paper also aims to focus on how Otlet represented human knowledge and reality in a systematic and unified way.
Design/methodology/approach – A close reading of Otlet’s primary works and some of his personal archives was undertaken.
Findings – Most importantly, it is shown that Otlet’s views on documentation were immersed in a cosmological, objectivist, humanitarian and ontological framework that is alien to contemporary information science. Correspondingly, his alleged affinity with positivism is reassessed.
Originality/value – The philosophical foundations of the origins of information science are highlighted. Indirectly, this paper is relevant to the ongoing debate on realism and anti-realism in information science.”
This was a significant film for Chaplin, and is regarded generally as one of his best films. It is significant because it is his first sound movie – although he did not use synchronised ‘lip-synch’ sound, but experimented with all kinds of ‘machine-mediated’ synchronised tracks. It was the last film to feature his Tramp character (Chaplin was convinced that the Tramp should never be heard talking); and it was the most politically cogent of his films – the implied critique of an over-industrialised culture careless of the needs and even the lives of the workers necessary to feed the insatiable production lines – production lines that in one sequence keep going faster and faster with Chaplin forever hurrying to catch up. This particular scene had featured in Rene Clair’s A Nous la Liberte, and the French company sued Chaplin twice for breach of copyright, later settling out of court. (Clair was a fan of Chaplin’s anyway, and flattered by his ‘homage’).
This is Dreyer’s masterpiece in the horror genre: a beautiful hybrid of silent and sound film (Dreyer uses both narrative placards and lip-synch, and of course, very atmospheric music), in a film that seems purposely over-exposed, creating the effect of a dreamscape painted in watercolour. Vampyr has several of the signifiers of the Vampire/Dracula genre, but both Dreyer’s direction, and Rudolf Mate’s cinematography, ensure it’s singularity. Shot in this curious transition from silent to sound (Dreyer filmed dialogue scenes in three language versions), with lots of rich symbolism – death (the reaper, the momento mori skulls), dream-time (the pendulum, the soldier’s shadow is out of synch with the soldier), the extensive use of shadows and silhouettes, vignette-shots, mirrors, Vampyr is an exceptional, poetic, seminal exploration of the gothic genre. Vampyr is rare and sometimes hard to find classic. It has received high praised in a number of critical circles, with some even considering it one of the greatest horror films ever made. For all that Vampyr was not a success when it was released – indeed it resulted in the collapse of director Carl Dreyer’s production company, causing him to have a nervous breakdown and not return to filmmaking for an entire decade. Vampyr was not seen in the USA until 1948, nearly two decades after its release, where it was retitled Castle of Doom and much of its slow pace trimmed and the long periods of silence replaced by dubbed explanation. In modern times, at least up until the video revolution, Vampyr was only seen via film society screenings. But even the video revolution has only provided a version that is extremely poor in quality – the print faded, unevenly edited and with most copies being released in a form that has been severely letterboxed and run over with thick Gothic subtitling. If there was any list of films most worthy of a digital restoration, then Vampyr should be right at the top of the list.
Vampyr however has an unmistakeable atmosphere that is hard to shake. But it should also come with stringent warnings to the cursory genre sampler – the film is slowly paced and has an almost entire lack of incident. An appreciation of its merit is often difficult to impart to today’s young horror audience. Vampyr is, if one likes, an exclusively acquired taste. Certainly people are often fooled by the title Vampyr. The film does make somewhat spurious claim to being based on J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s oft-filmed lesbian vampire tale Carmilla (1872) about a teenage girl being seduced by a mysterious female companion – but other than the vague connection of a vampire woman trying to seduce another girl at one point, there is no connection between Vampyr and Carmilla whatsoever. Indeed the vampires in Carmilla and Vampyr are almost entirely the opposite of one another – while both are female, Carmilla’s title character appeared in her teens/early twenties, while the vampire here is an old woman. On a pure plot-to-plot point, a reading of Vampyr might make it sound like a standard B vampire movie, but this is not the case either. Indeed the narrative is a rather weak one, stringing characters and incidents together in a way that is not satisfactorily explained, even in the film’s recourse to dream logic. The real effect of Vampyr comes not in what we would recognize as any genre horror elements but rather in the sense of dissociated off-centeredness that permeates the film.
There are varying stories as to how director Carl Dreyer achieved the look of the film – one that he hit upon the effect by accident when cinematographer Rudolf Maté accidentally overexposed a can of film and then decided the shoot the entire film that way, using a gauze wrap placed across the lens; other claims that he shot the entire film during the hours of dawnrise. Whatever the case, Dreyer has created a unique effect – where the b/w camerawork has been washed out into a misty white-on-white, achieving a quite dream-like effect. Dreyer was also reported to have directed his cast to keep movement to a minimum and especially avoid any sharp moves. Another part of the effect is that Vampyr is almost entirely a silent film – the action moves in silence, with little dialogue and the only sound coming from the brooding score. Vampyr was made just after Hollywood had discovered sound and indeed Carl Dreyer originally started out shooting Vampyr as a silent film, only adding dialogue later. The result is a film of slow, somnolent atmosphere. You are drawn right into Dreyer’s shadow-world, a place where rational explanations seem off-centred and the supernatural hovers just beyond the ken of reason. A constant ambience of dread lurks in the film – Julian West’s entrance into the village is intercut with shots of a hooded farmer carrying a sickle, ringing a bell as he waits for a ferry, seeming as though he is Death tolling a harbinger of what is to come; even the angular arrangement of a set of vanes seems something cabalistic; there’s an incredibly long and drawn-out shot of a door opening into a room that holds a dread apprehension of what could be about to happen, before being anti-climactically revealed to be something mundane. The only other film to have such an unsettlingly atmospheric effect is David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977).
The film contains many of the effects that people remember and others try to copy – the shadow of the soldier that gets up and walks away from its still seated owner; the moment when the calm, innocent face of vampirized Sybille Schmitz suddenly opens in an evil, lascivious smile and she turns toward her sister with clear intent; the death of the doctor as he is pursued to the flour mill, where the machines start operating on their own, burying him in a torrent of white-on-white flour; the shooting of the lord of the manor – with the shotgun and hands holding it suddenly seen illuminated from underneath against the roof in a strange flash of light as the deed is done. But the scene that is particularly well-remembered is Julian West’s dream of his own death – with the parting of his spirit from his body seen in double-exposure, the camera turning to look up from the inside of the coffin as the glass lid is screwed down, and the sinister face of the witch looking down at the curiously blank face of West (who bears an uncanny resemblance to horror writer H.P. Lovecraft) eerily lit within.
Danish director Carl Dreyer (1889-1968) is one of the least well-known highly acclaimed directors. Dreyer’s career was sporadic – he made only 14 films between 1919 and 1964. Although one of these was The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), which many consider one of the greatest of all silent films. A good deal of Carl Dreyer’s films are religious in nature. Many of Dreyer’s films feature women whose driving force comes from spiritual matters or a sense of purity that is beyond this understanding – Maria Falconetti’s Joan of Arc; Lisbeth Movin in Day of Wrath (1943) whose love and passion is seen as something that exists on a saintly plane beyond the cruel repressiveness of the society around her; Birgitte Federspiel in Ordet (1955), who is eventually rewarded with her wholesomeness of faith with the manifestation of a genuine miracle – and whose purity often seems at threat or corruption from the forces of society. They are heroines whose vision regards this world as ephemeral and whose focus lies on the spiritual. (Even Nina Pens Rode, the heroine of Dreyer’s final film, the non-fantastic Gertrud (1964), seems to be in search of an idealized love). Dreyer frequently ends his films with their transcendental catharsis – the ending of Joan of Arc where Joan goes to the stake on a suggestion of saintly resurrection, Birgitte Federspiel resurrection in Ordet.
Coming after the cinematic power of Joan of Arc, contemporary critics regarded Vampyr as cheap Gothic shock effect, but in truth Vampyr is really just another facet of Carl Dreyer’s religious vision. If the heroines of his other films are people who seem merely to regard this world as a struggle to maintain their purity against corruption and/or a dutiful wait that ends in the transcendental apotheosis – then Vampyr can perhaps be seen as Dreyer’s anti-transcendental film. It is one where the religious catharsis has been replaced by a sense of Gothic dread. The world in Vampyr is constantly seen as a dissociative one – people’s shadows detach from their bodies, the hero has a long fevre dream where he becomes a disembodied soul witnessing his own death, and there is the sense right throughout that the hero is more like a passive observer merely viewing events rather than participating in them. If Joan of Arc, Ordet et al show us heroines who have such spiritual certainty that they regard the physical world as a shadow, then Vampyr is a literal manifestation of such a state of mind – but one that comes without the overriding sense of any comforting faith. It is a film where both we and the hero seem stuck in a spiritual limbo between Heaven and Hell, where the heroine’s innocence is at threat from corruption by the evil of the vampire, and where the only eventual deliverance – watching Julian West and Rena Mandel passing across the mist-covered lake in the boat, an image that seems to hold a sense of passover and the promise of delivery from this world that Dreyer has transplanted us into – is one that comes through the eventual banishment of purely physical evil – the corrupting influence of the vampire.
The other films in Carl Dreyer’s oeuvre of genre note are:– the silent Leaves from Satan’s Book (1919), a multi-episode cross-historical drama concerning The Devil’s activities through the ages; Day of Wrath (1943), an ambiguous film about witchcraft and witch persecution in 17th Century Denmark; and Ordet (1955), a film about two troubled extended families that questions issues of religious faith before culminating in a seemingly genuine miracle.
Vampyr was remade as Bruce G. Hallenbeck’s low-budget Vampyre (1990), wherein Hallenbeck loosely replicated the original, although with little of Carl Dreyer’s atmosphere, and added gore and topless women. Many effects in Vampyr – especially the burial alive fevre dream scene – have been borrowed by other films such as Night of the Eagle/Burn, Witch, Burn (1961) and Roger Corman’s Premature Burial (1962).
This is not a real computer. It is a prototypical computer – the model for a computational machine that can simulate any other computational or logical machine. It was devised in 1936, in a thought-experiment by the English mathematician, cryptographer, and early computer scientist Alan Turing. The experiment assumes an unlimited paper tape (or film-strip in the illustration above), divided into segments (or frames above), which can run back and forth through a read-write head (eraser and writer above). Importantly (and this is Turing’s brilliant insight), the film/tape can hold data as well as instructions (both as symbols). There is a logic unit that can read the symbols, and act upon them (erase them and write new symbols), onto the film. The film frames can contain symbols (such as numbers and arithmetic symbols). There is also a memory unit that can store recent symbols. This is how Turing imagined the logical computation machine – a computer that had input and output (the tape or film and read/write head in this diagram), a memory, and a logical processing unit. And this is precisely what a modern PC has – input and output via keyboard, network, disc, printer, monitor, memory in the form of RAM and hard-disk; and a logical processing unit in the form of a microprocessor chip.
Why does this inspire?
In the face of almost universal War fever, a theatrical bohemian called Hugo Ball and his partner Emmy Hennings set up a nightclub for anti-war intellectuals and avant garde artists who have decided to sit out the War in Switzerland. The DADA movement grew from this humble beginning. I’ve often wondered if James Joyce, and Albert Einstein, who were both in Zurich around this period, ever went to the Cabaret Voltaire.. What did it feel like to be there? Would you have been aware that history was being made?
“In 1914, when I was thinking over the plan for a new theatre, I was convinced of this: a theatre which experiments beyond the realm of day to day preoccupations. Europe paints, composes and writes verse in a new way. A fusion, not merely of all art, but of all regenerative ideas. The background of colours, words and sounds must be brought out from the subconcious and given life, so that it engulfs everyday life and all it’s misery.” (Hugo Ball)
“In 1915, Hugo Ball became the chief organiser of the Cabaret Voltaire, a club that attracted expatriot artists and intellectuals in Zurich to escape World War Ball wrote of Cabaret Voltaire “I was sure that there must be a few young people in Switzerland who like me were interested not only in enjoying their independence but giving proof of it. Cabaret Votaire, which has as it’s sole purpose to draw attention, across the barriers of war and nationalism, to the few independent spirits who live for other ideals”
A classic example of the ‘virtual prototype’ – the convincing illustration of a concept – in this case Apple CEO John Sculley’s 1990 vision of the future of computing. A future informed by Sculley’s Apple Technology Group colleagues of the time: Bill Atkinson, Alan Kay, Brenda Laurel, Glorianna Davenport… It was a vision that has not yet been realised (though we are getting close). The idea of personified intelligent agents able to act on our behalf was a popular theme at the time – see also Dougllas Adams’ Hyperland video. But Apple’s 2013 Siri – the current version of the Personal Digital Assistant (or smart software agent), while not an animated, personified character,is getting better. And 30 years of developments in AI since the Knowledge Navigator are beginning to show. Sculley and Mitsch’s virtual prototype remains a powerful vision of the future as seen from 1991, and is as seminal as Alan Kay’s 1968 vision of the Dynabook.