1977, 94 min, 35mm
Scottish filmmaker Donald Cammell (PERFORMANCE) directs this idiosyncratic body horror technothriller based on a novel by Dean Koontz. Julie Christie stars as the recently estranged wife of an obsessive computer scientist whose AI, PROTEUS IV, locks Christie in the couple’s smarthome and attempts to artificially inseminate her with genetic material possessing the computer’s accrued superintelligence. It’s basically a one woman, one computer show, and if it sounds absurd, it is; but Christie sells it with a characteristically brilliant performance. There’s arguably something wittingly subversive about the way PROTEUS IV explicitly mirrors the gender bias of its male creator; that is to say, DEMON SEED recognizes code is neither apolitical nor gender neutral.
Christie aside, the most noteworthy aspect of DEMON SEED is the astonishing animation by experimental film legend Jordan Belson, Bo Gehring, and overlooked computer art pioneer Ron Hays – whose early ‘70s art bona fides include residency at WGBH alongside Nam June Paik and performances with the Paik-Abe video synthesizer at The Kitchen. Hays’s work with the Scanimate computer/video synthesizer is instantly recognizable in commercial video from the period (perhaps most awesomely the psychedelic afrofuturist video for Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Let’s Groove”). According to a 1982 issue of American Cinematographer, Hays’s work on DEMON SEED “was perhaps the first [Hollywood] film to integrate video with other special effect film processes.”
Ericka Beckman HIATUS (SINGLE SCREEN VERSION 1) (1999, 21 min, 16mm-to-digital)
In the experimental narrative HIATUS, rendered in Beckman’s distinctively sparse yet colorful style with stunning live and CGI animations, a woman’s journey through a peaceful online environment is threatened by the internet’s most invasive species: men. When the work was originally conceived, Massive Multiplayer Online Games had yet to break the mainstream, and virtual worlds like Second Life were many years away. Viewed today, HIATUS can be appreciated as a prescient work about the roles of competition and capital in games, and even more so, networked culture’s fraught gender dynamics and how they interface with digital utopias, identity constructs, freedom, and empowerment.
Soda_Jerk UNDADDY MAINFRAME (2014, 1 min, digital)
“Revisits the feminist malware of pioneering Australian art collective VNS Matrix. In this recombinant work the collective’s seminal text ‘A Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Century’ (1991) is recoded via instructional computer videos of the 1990s.” –Soda_Jerk
Total running time: ca. 120 min.