Fact is proud to present the trailer for Lawrence Lek’s Theta, which features original score and sound design by Kode9 and is featured as part of Future Shock, which is now open at 180 The Strand in London and runs until as of August 28, 2022. You can catch Lawrence Lek in conversation with Kode9 at Reference Point on July 28, where the collaborators will be giving a talk, with audiovisual support from Nanzhen Yang – tickets are available now.
Lawrence Lek describes Theta as a CGI road movie set in the same Sinofuturist cinematic world he has been working in for half a decade, hence essential works such as Nøtel, Sinofuturism (1839-2046 AD), Geomancer, 2065, AIDOL爱道and Temple 寺庙 emerged. Some of these installations and video games have featured original music and sound elements from Hyperdub founder Kode9, whom Lek reunites with for Theta. Set in an abandoned smart city, SimBeijing, the film follows a driverless patrol car conversing with its own cloud consciousness as it attempts to understand the source of its discontent and sadness as it circles around a ghost town which, although abandoned, is still under constant surveillance. “For a long time I made sci-fi movies and video games, but recently I’ve been trying to think about what’s in the very near future, even in the present moment, what might happen, somewhere else , at this moment. says Lek. “It exists in a strange realm between documentary and fiction. It’s not about judging whether it’s optimistic or pessimistic, but about saying that these things are happening somewhere and imagining how it might be experienced by the car, from a non-human point of view.
Constructing a complex speculative present, Lek explores questions of total automation, the expansion and development of surveillance states, and a strange form of computational psychoanalysis, all through the prism of hyper-connected artificial intelligence. As the driverless patrol car takes part in a surreal machine therapy session, she expresses her melancholy: “I feel sad, it’s been so long since everyone left. “Are you sure everyone is gone,” the cloud consciousness responds. “I see everything that’s going on. Anywhere, anytime,” the car replies. While simultaneously speculating on how self-aware machine intelligences might react to human presence while demonstrating how the nonlinear computational processes of an artificial consciousness might be resistant to bureaucratic management structures, Lek makes a gesture towards what kind of work problems the world might face in a period of total automation. “When and where this work is taking place is the closest thing to where we are today within the Sinofuturist universe I’ve built,” says Lek, pointing out the similarities between the rise of contemporary smart cities and the world of robotic efficiency presented in Theta. Pushing the culture of sophistication to its most extreme conclusion, if human-level thinking is completely subsumed by systems-level computing, Lek argues that a smart city could exist more efficiently without citizens, depopulated by the endless ouroboros of the machine self-monitoring.
Created entirely using the Unreal Engine, Theta is just the latest example of Lek’s continued fascination with the software, which has become a central part of his artistic practice. “I first discovered Unreal Engine when I was working with Clifford Sage, who worked with him,” Lek describes. “On a very simple level, what this allows a filmmaker to do from a very conventional design standpoint is to create scenes and locations that would simply be unachievable with the kind of low budget sets with which we are accustomed to working. You can create these landscapes that set the tone, not just with a video game aesthetic, which has its own nostalgic memory associated with it, but very specific versions of environments and settings that simply wouldn’t be possible by other means. . The fact that it’s a real-time engine also allows me to do performances with it. It is this mastery of the game engine that allows Lek to present speculative visions of the future, as well as alternative visions of the present, with both technical precision and emotional resonance, which is only amplified by the score and sound design of Kode9. “Many different artists have shown that working in game engines, or working with animation, doesn’t limit any type of emotionality, or any engagement with the body. Artists like Jacolby Satterwhite and Lu Yang show that there is no limit to intimacy, or the idea of the body, with a digital medium.
For more information about Lawrence Lek and his work, you can find him on Instagram and visit his website. Theta is presented as part of Future Shock, which is currently open at 180 The Strand in London and runs until August 28, 2022. For tickets and information on opening times, visit the 180 The website. Strand.
You can catch Lawrence Lek in conversation with Kode9 at Reference Point on July 28, where the collaborators will be giving a talk, with AV support from Nanzhen Yang – tickets are available now.
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