bendito machine

#edcmooc bendito machine (Episode 3 – Obey His Commands) – 6:46

According to ground control, this short film tells the story of technological development in terms of ritual and worship – the characters in the film treat each new technology as god-like, appearing from the sky and causing the immediate substitution of the technology before it, and it suggests there are ecological and social implications of an obsession or fixation on technology… they want us to consider the characteristics of technologies portrayed in the film and whether the characters have any choice in relation to their technologies…

I read it as a dystopian vision of waves of techno-led mass communication colonisations, and ‘progress’ that goes nowhere good. I found it very visually interesting – and amusing. The opening image reminds me of sisyphus, as a figure struggles up a mountain pushing not a rock but his own enormous head… but as he arrives at the top I’m reminded more of Moses receiving the commandments from god (and later of Abraham sacrificing Isaac).

The visual style of the whole film is reminiscent of paper cut-out shadow puppetry you might see in many Asian cultures, and the figures seem deliberately styled to evoke an ‘ethnographic’ scene of ‘tribal culture’ studied (constructed) in anthropological discourse, so in the context of media studies, there seem to be some ironic references going on to not only the social behaviour being examined but also the ways in which we study social behaviour…

Then the juxtaposition of the traditional culture construct with the spaceship beaming down a new technology is unexpected and funny, and perhaps linking more to the sort of anthropology currently influential in this media studies space through the work of Michael Wesch (given that the figures and topography is reminiscent of New Guinea)… but it’s all deliberately non-specific, with various references and distortions, so maybe it’s mocking the way the west constructs ‘exotic’ cultures in academic discourse?

Anyway the story is clearly one of technology worship, and suggests that the mass global media coming to the social group (invading and invited) do drive their behaviour, so this is a good example of the ‘determinist’ view. The people depicted haven’t created the technology themselves, they’re represented as ‘passive recipients’ and mindless worshippers of the latest new shiny thing, and unable or unwilling to think about how it might negatively (predictably) affect them…

The most striking aspects of the overall style to me are dramatic colour, shadow puppet animation per se, and the absurdity of juxtaposing the utter banalities coming out of the tv screen with the constructed naive ‘primitive’ culture into which it is beamed… their mindless consumption of it all, as though it were meaningful and important, is both funny (especially when the village people start bopping along to the 1950s style nonsense pop music on the TV ads) and disturbing. What is coming out of the TV is an uninterpretable cacophony of noise and random imagery, but it is influencing the behaviour of the ‘tribe’.

It’s clearly mocking mindless consumption of new media, making fun of the technologies (by presenting them as relentlessly banal and beaming de-contextualised and potentially dangerous nonsense) but especially of the social ignorance of how they work and what effects they might have. It isn’t clear whether the critique is more aimed at the colonising force of the media, or at the ignorant who worship it to the point of giving it total power over their lives… both I guess… but the displacement of this whole critique onto some unspecified ‘other’ culture is presumably an indirect way of critiquing ‘us’ – the digital culture most enmeshed in the kind of mindless behaviour represented.

The TV is clearly carrying ill intent (there’s a subliminal face of evil that keeps popping up between the banal TV snippets, and then the TV starts attacking people and becoming increasingly threatening), but it’s not clear why the people’s response is simply to enslave themselves utterly to the new would-be dictator… they’re not portrayed as making choices about that, and we aren’t really pushed towards feeling they’re innocent and to be pitied, or feeling they’re fools refusing to learn from their experience and take better control of the invading, potentially threatening forces coming from above.. it’s just ambiguous.

I’m tending to read it as more a critique of ignorance, and a plea for education I guess – a critique of the  idiotic desire for infotainment represented in the story, that leads to wastage, environmental and social. The one who initially climbed the mountain top to receive the new technology seems to try at one point to ‘save his people’ by returning to the mountain top and, David vs Goliath style, attempting to fight back at the cloud-based invader, but then he returns to the community in command of a shiny new TV that’s integrated into a war machine with hidden guns… and on the story seems to go forever, with new technologies rapidly becoming old and dumped onto the rubbish pile in favour of the latest new shiny thing, that bodes even greater danger…

Whatever the message of this production, it is itself part of a rapidly growing commercial media empire (http://benditomachine.com/en), a whole ‘campaign’  project funded by Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/help/faq/kickstarter%20basics?ref=nav). I’m not clear from my very brielf google search just now whether it’s some kind of social-political campaign or a campaign in the advertising sense, promoting and expanding the creative work for its own sake, but they are certainly a growing phenomenon and I’m now following their blog (http://www.zumbakamera.com/blog/) just our of curiosity to see where they go with this work

week one wrap-up

 

btw loved the scottish version 🙂

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One comment on “bendito machine

  1. Pingback: week one: something of a synthesis | another space oddity

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