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The encounter between machine intelligence and human desire in Brenda Lien’s Call of… mixed-footage video installations (2016-18)


Dr Annie Ring presents this paper as part of the panel entitled Installation Spaces and Virtual Screen Cultures.


The development of artificial intelligence has enabled unprecedented growth in surveillance in the past 30 years. Data are gathered in vast quantities by smart technologies that reside in homes and workplaces, and are then sorted and analysed by algorithms capable of intuitive predictions about human behaviour, which have enabled gross abuses of democracy as in the Cambridge Analytica scandals, and produced enormous profit for the actors Zuboff calls ‘surveillance capitalists’ (2019). The fact that machines and human minds now work in concert, in contexts from keyhole surgery to the mass dataveillance enabled by internet use, has led Hayles (2017) to conclude we can no longer conceive of human and machine cognition as entirely distinct. 


These developments are skilfully addressed in the experimental short films of the award-winning German director Brenda Lien. In this presentation I will analyse how Lien’s part-animated and part-live action Call of… trilogy (2016-18) stages the encounter between machine intelligence and human desire. I will examine how these installations mix footage in a citational style capable of interrogating the aesthetic and affective strategies used to encourage internet users to make themselves vulnerable to dataveillance.


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