Alex Garland's Ex Machina (2015) explores both long-standing discourses about artificial intelligence and more recent concerns about automation, surveillance, and big data. It does so by associating AI creation not solely with science, technology, and religion but also with the history of art and, more reflexively, with film itself. In this way, the film becomes an allegory for its own production, a story about representation and the creation of artificial film worlds by new technological means. This reflexivity underscores cinema's important role in popular discourses about technological change, a role it has long served as a “technocritical art.” AI films like Ex Machina suggest that this role is changing as film enters not just the digital age but also what W.J.T. Mitchell terms the age of biocybernetics.
Ex Machina in the Garden
Brian R. Jacobson is the author of Studios Before the System: Architecture, Technology, and the Emergence of Cinematic Space (Columbia University Press, 2015) and articles in journals including Framework, Film History, History and Technology, and Early Popular Visual Culture. He is Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies and History at the University of Toronto.
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Brian R. Jacobson; Ex Machina in the Garden. Film Quarterly 1 June 2016; 69 (4): 23–34. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2016.69.4.23
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