I'll Send an OS to the World: "Her" as Critical Design for the Electronic Embrace

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A few years ago, I interviewed for a position at a so-called "innovation consultancy." At the time, they were collaborating with a mobile phone operator to understand what was driving growth in the telecommunications business. The company had devised several ways to intuit the needs, reactions, and aspirations of their target shoppers. They employed a team of anthropologists. They built full-scale replicas in their rehabbed industrial office to conduct focus groups. They boasted fully equipped video production facilities. I was told that narrative filmmaking was an excellent way to speculate about consumer desires.

As I watched Her, Spike Jonze's latest feature, I kept thinking of my visit to that agency. Set in a Los Angeles of the "slight future," primarily composed of present day Shanghai, the film follows ghostwriter Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) and the brilliant women in his life, including the artificially intelligent entity Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). K.K. Barrett's production design conjures both the commercial language of Apple's lifestyle marketing and the familiar Kodachrome-like warmth of yesteryear. 

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(A)non-Proposition: A Conversation with Studio for Propositional Cinema

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In the summer of 2013, Studio for Propositional Cinema (SPC) launched itself during the Kunstverein Düsseldorf's congress "Proposals and Propositions" with a talk by Hans-Jürgen Hafner, the director of the Kunstverein, which was theatrically disrupted by an audience member planted by SPC. The project with the Kunstverein continued with regular presentations and events throughout a three month period, which included an exhibition, a performance, a reading, a screening, a poster project, and so on, each taking place at a different type of venue. The project included collaborations with a range of cultural producers, including Henning Fehr & Philipp Rühr, Aaron Peck, Calla Henkel & Max Pitegoff, Pablo Larios, Dena Yago, and Rachel Rose.

This interview seeks to understand the intentions the SPC have for cinema in the 21st Century, taking into account cinema’s contemporary and historical modes of production and dissemination.

SB: What is the SPC's form and function?

SPC: We are a structure for generating images and language, and act as a functionary of that structure. One of our primary functions is to ensure that the structure remains formless.
 
We exist in order to find new ways to research, to produce, to disseminate. Within our cultural context, all forms of cultural production come with a set of traditions and accepted orthodoxies that function as models for the territory or language in which it is considered viable to function. We formed out of dissatisfaction with these impositions. We attempt to function just enough outside of the model to see which and how many aspects of the model we can remove, destroy, or rearrange while still viably, or at least arguably, working within the form of cinema, since it is our purported form of cultural engagement at the moment. Since our primary starting point comes from a notion of a disassembled cinema, we consider every element within the cinematic apparatus as simultaneously expendable and expandable.

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