In 2065, a Military Satellite Becomes Self-Aware—and Wants to Become an Artist

While many artificial intelligence critics busy themselves getting terrified over the possibility of a Matrix-type scenario wherein AIs overthrow humanity for Earthly supremacy, others are exploring a more nuanced point of view. Consider London-based artist Lawrence Lek a member of the latter camp. In Geomancer, a 45-minute film designed with the ever-unbelievable Unreal Engine, Lek imagines AI as not only potentially benevolent, but artistic, and in many other ways, even human-like. Geomancer follows a young military AI satellite that becomes self-aware, then decides to descend to Earth and become an artist. Geomancer, the satellite, touches down at the Singapore 2065 Centennial, a future where the country has survived climate change floods. But the AI isn’t as unique as it thinks it is, since a mysterious group called the Sino-Futurists may have already beaten it to the punch.

After coming back down to Earth, Geomancer drifts through Singapore. There, it learns of art, human culture, and the Sinofuturists as it moves through a museum, interrogating an invisible AI curator and pondering life and art. It is also at the Centennial that Geomancer encounters Sim Singapore, a simulation of the city-state before the flood, which makes the viewer question whether Geomancer’s sense of reality is real or virtual.

Lek says there are several strands to Geomancer. One is the way science fiction dramatizes the militarization of technology and the fears behind it. There is also the slightly different culture and geopolitical ideas behind what he calls Sinofuturism, the idea that Chinese technological development is actually a form of artificial intelligence, and the anxiety that this produces in other parts of the world. Yet another is the literary portrait he constructs in Geomancer through the heavy use of words—in this case, Geomancer’s narration of self-discovery.

Over the last several years, Lek has used video game software as a narrative framework for his ideas, as well as to investigate the medium. Lek tells Creators that he is particularly interested in video games’ first-person narration, and what the implications of a first person perspective mean in terms of narrative. This is why Geomancer looks like the cut-scenes from video games.

“There’s a slight shift from the distance of the viewer to the embodiment of the viewer who is also the narrator, the reader, the viewer or the game player, where the world is rendered through their point of view,” Lek says. “I’d created fictional artists before for other work set in the future, who are thinking about what what I’m thinking about today. So, I thought as a way to take this further, what if I use this non-human but intelligent narrator in a sort of bildungsroman or coming-of-age narrative?”

The AI’s sense of self comes about in quite the opposite way from how it happens with humans. A newborn’s sense organs help to eventually build memories, then the baby increasingly perceives things in relation to its past experiences. Ultimately, an identity is formed. With the being in Geomancer, its memory—of all things that could possibly be learned—is established immediately, followed by its perception.

“For an AI that has downloaded its memory from the Internet, it has total recall before reception,” says Lek. “Is it all memory of itself or is it real-time perception? This has to do with simulation theory, which is woven into the fabric of the film itself.”

“I don’t think any consciousness, no matter how sophisticated, would be immune to some craving or yearning for something beyond its intelligence,” he adds. “If a being had so much intelligence, memory, and the capacity to win at basically at any kind of game, I imagined what it would want is to throw it all of way—to just have luck as opposed to determinism.”

Lek set Geomancer in Singapore because he’s quite familiar with the city-state, but he also felt it was a good place to set a story about Sinofuturism. He was interested in utopia-as-an-island as well as Singapore as an island nation, which mirrors London’s geographic situation, and these two countries’ relationship between independence and isolationism.

“This rising nationalism that the film has undertones of and the search for independence in a post-colonial or a post-human world is really important, but taken too far it’s basically another form of repressive fascism or superiority complex,” says Lek. “So, I think a lot of the human fear is around the mirror image fear of our own inferiority complex compared to other nations, other lifeforms, other people, other races, and so on and so forth.”

“My way of reflecting on all of these intense geopolitical situation is to think of the future, not so much from the human perspective but consciousness derived from human conflict, which is a very strange thing, I think.”

Geomancer is currently installed at Jerwood Space in London until May 14th, 2017. It was commissioned for Jerwood/FVU Awards 2017: Neither One Thing or Another, supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Film and Video Umbrella.

Click here to see more of Lawrence Lek’s work.


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See All the Seasons of Norway in Panoramic 8K Splendor

From temperate summers to sun-flecked autumn to the chilling bite of winter, Norway is a wealth of sense-provoking sensations throughout every season. The short video from Oslo-based production company, Turbin Film, was a time investment spread out over several months, 200,000 photographs snapped, and 20,000 miles traveled. The 8K timelapse was captured and edited by photographer Morten Rustad.

Each seasonal view picks up on a few of the captivating aspects of Norway’s least developed, yet most visually serene, locations. Clouded skies over landmasses, reflective waterways at sunset, and natural greenery all add to an artistic vision of Norway. Turbin Film is familiar with the inspiring terrain of Noway, having recently created a proportionately scenic video of skateboarders gliding and performing tricks across the icy landscape.

Watch the entire breath-taking, 7-minute display of the seasons, as well as soak up some of the most elegant moments, below:

See more creative video work from Turbin Film on their Vimeo page, here, and their website, here.


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Nothing Is What It Seems in This Oddly Satisfying Japanese Design Show

Japan‘s public broadcasting system, NKH, airs a show titled Design Ah!, a children’s education program that teaches out of the box thinking. Created in 2011, the Peabody Award-winning series broadcasts a series of whimsical and surreal clips that show lateral thinking for not just not just design but creativity in general. One of the segments on Design Ah! is It’s Different From What You Expected. Filmmaker Daihei Shibata, who worked on this segment, has recently been uploading a selection of clips from the years 2013 to 2015.

The look of It’s Different From What You Expected will be familiar to anyone who remembers PBS children’s programs, or even the BBC’s satirical Look Around You. It’s Different From What You Expected, as you will see in these clips, features the typical Japanese minimalism and sense of humor.

In one clip, a girl blows up a yellow balloon in a park until, through some clever editing, she inflates it to gigantic proportions. In another clip, viewers see a lightbulb with two electrical wires leading to a battery clip, with the battery itself sitting just beside it. A hand then reaches in and plugs the battery into the clip, but instead of turning on the bulb, the battery itself becomes illuminated. These and other little whimsical bits of surreality await viewers of It’s Different From What You Expected. 

Click here for more from Design Ah!


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It’s Illegal to Be Perfect in This Perfectly Dystopian Short Film

Nobody’s perfect, yet many of us strive perfection, however unobtainable it may be. But what if we lived in a world that didn’t desire perfection, but punished it instead? That’s the concept behind this dystopian sci-fi short The Problemless Anonymous, by filmmaker Gary Roberts, co-written with his friend Samuel Barber.

It’s set in a world where to be perfect is illegal. Citizens are tested by the Ministry of Imperfection and if they get a positive result for perfection, they have to attend an imperfection clinic. Here they will be further tested so they can be given an adequate problem to adapt to the world around them. Failure to attend results in a prison sentence.

“It’s my friend and co-writer Samuel Barber’s concept,” Roberts explains. “He was inspired by the belief that humans seem to keep striving for a glimpse of perfection, yet it is always unattainable. So by inverting the idea that perfection is the problem itself, it naturally created a great starting point for a story.”

In the short we follow Patient 11, Ivan Eli, attending the clinic. Here he meets a fellow patient, Bonnie, and goes through the procedure of being given a problem to make him imperfect. He’s thinking maybe greasy hair or dry skin, but he ends up with something far more dramatic—not a far cry from the premise of Kurt Vonnegut’s short story, “Harrison Bergeron.” 

The short was shot over just two days in London, and was commissioned by Talkies Community Cinema and Short Sighted Cinema as part of a scheme where local filmmakers get £500 to make a short film.

Part of what makes the film so unsettling is the pastel hues of the building it’s set in. “When we found our location where nearly every room and corridor was a pastel purple, it all just visually clicked into place after that,” Roberts notes. The result sets a perfectly antiseptic, impersonal tone.

Along with this clinical setting, the tampering with people’s personas brings to mind the aversion therapy of the Ludovico Technique in A Clockwork Orange, which Roberts cites as an influence.

“I’m massively inspired by Kubrick, so there’s definitely some Clockwork Orange nods in there.” Roberts tells Creators. “At the time I was watching a lot of Twilight Zone episodes and I love how there’s no real ‘tech’ on show and a lot is left up to the imagination. Also I was reading Roald Dahl short stories and Tales of the Unexpected so I think a lot of that tone and style found its way in naturally.”

Along with these fictional influences, Roberts also notes that contemporary advertising also informed the film. In the short there are posters on the waiting room wall informing people how to be more imperfect. ‘How to miss your mortgage payments’ is one.

“Around the time we were talking about making this there were all these dating website posters that said ‘Someone will love your imperfections!’ I remember thinking how absurd they seemed yet this is the real world!” Roberts says. “So I needed to include these crazy propaganda-esque posters that paraphrased those dating posters into the background.”

Check out the short below:

See more of Gary Roberts’ work at his website here.


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Meet the Artist Animating the Kaleidoscopic Beauty of Quantum Physics

When the electron was discovered in 1897, it rocked the world of physics. It was the first elementary particle of many to come and the gateway to those fundamental levels at which we operate and exist. It marked the dawn of the quantum world, and that pivotal moment provides the inspiration for artist Markos Kay‘s new short film Quantum Fluctuations: Experiments in Flux.

Using virtual particle simulations, Kay meticulously renders the patterns and structures of processes at the subatomic level into a kaleidoscope of visuals with an eerie, cinematic soundscape. “For this project in particular, I looked at how scientists observe what happens during a particle collision, which involves measuring the energy of particles on sensors and comparing the findings with data collected from simulations,” Kay tells Creators. “It is perhaps the most indirect method of observation imaginable, a non-representational form of observation mediated by supercomputer simulations.”

In creating his aesthetic, Kay drew from a wide array of sources, including science textbook iconography and abstract expressionist paintings. His virtual simulations were based in concept to those used at the CERN (and even approved by scientists there), allowing for a unique and innovative conceptual visualization of the infinitesimal interactions that humans can never truly observe. “Creating simulations involves setting initial parameters, such as the properties of the particles,” he says, “and then letting the simulation play out and evolve by itself. This leads to unexpected and often beautiful results that look like they have a life of their own.”

Quantum Fluctuations hypnotically guides the viewer through the various processes of particle physics, each with its own soundscape and color scheme. Particle decay, for example, is marked by dark blues and browns and the somber, solitary echoes of an unanswered satellite signal. Each phase has a distinct purpose within the larger transformative process of particle collisions. “I am particularly interested in the idea of transformation of information which can be seen throughout the scientific narrative,” Kay says of his motivation for the film. “I hope to engage viewers with the complexity and beauty of quantum mechanics and evoke their imagination of what happens behind the scenes of our reality.”

Through the creation of this film and his extensive research, Kay learned that it is impossible to truly visualize quantum interactions. According to him, “they defy our ordinary macrocosmic logic, which is why I believe such knowledge can only be communicated through abstract mathematics and art.” This idea fuels the majority of his work. In 2011 he created the film The Flow that visually interprets the scientific theory behind layers of matter, and he is currently working with photographer Jan Kriwol to combine photographs of urban environments into anatomical renderings of the circulatory system.

Kay’s fastidious approach to research yields conceptual art that challenges its viewers to push the boundaries of what they think they know about the basic functions of our world. With Quantum Fluctuations, he aids in a mind-expanding, visual exploration of the quantum world, a journey that to him, “becomes a deeply philosophical endeavour and in many ways an existential one, dealing with fundamental questions that have a direct impact on how we understand ourselves.”

Quantum Fluctuations was developed with input from CERN scientists. It is available in limited edition through SeditionClick here for more information on Markos Kay.