January 4, 2005

Manovich’s Mission

by Noah Wardrip-Fruin · , 8:53 pm

Those in NYC on Saturday will want to head to the Chelsea Art Museum for a 2pm reception and talk celebrating two events: the opening of Lev Manovich’s “Mission to Earth” installation (which will run through the 26th) and the publication of his collaborative DVD Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database (MIT Press, 2005) created with Andreas Kratky.

In addition to Manovich, Saturday’s talk will also include luminaries Christiane Paul, Barbara London, Marty St. James, Sue Hubbard, and Ken Feinstein. The Soft Cinema DVD includes, in addition to the work of Manovich and Kratky, contributions from DJ Spooky, Scanner, George Lewis and Jóhann Jóhannsson (music), servo (architecture), Schoenerwissen/ Office for Computational Design (data visualization), and Ross Cooper Studios (media design).

One Response to “Manovich’s Mission”

  1. noah Says:

    Lev just passed on some additional info about the DVD. I think it’s the first DVD publication to come from MIT Press.


    a new DVD release

    Lev Manovich and Andreas Kratky
    SOFT CINEMA: Navigating the Database

    DVD-video + 40 page color booklet
    Published and distributed by The MIT Press, 2005

    What kind of cinema is appropriate for the age of Palm Pilot and Google? Automatic surveillance and self-guided missiles? Consumer profiling and CNN? To investigate answers to this question Lev Manovich, one of today’s most influential thinkers in the fields of media arts and digital culture, paired with award-winning new media artist and designer Andreas Kratky. They have also invited contributions from leaders in other cultural fields: DJ Spooky, Scanner, George Lewis, and Jóhann Jóhannsson (music), servo (architecture), Andreas Angelidakis (media architecture), Schoenerwissen/OfCD (information visualization), Ross Cooper Studios (media design).

    The results of their three-year explorations are the three ‘films’ presented on this DVD. Although the films reference the familiar genres of cinema, the process by which they were created and the resulting aesthetics fully belong to the software age. They demonstrate the possibilities of soft(ware) cinema. A ‘cinema’, that is, in which human subjectivity and the variable choices made by custom software combine to create films that can run infinitely without ever exactly repeating the same image sequences, screen layouts and narratives.

    ‘Mission to Earth’ is a science fiction allegory of the immigrant experience. It adopts the variable choices and multi-frame layout of the Soft Cinema system to represent ‘variable identity’. ‘Absences’ is a lyrical black and white narrative that relies on algorithms normally deployed in military and civilian surveillance applications to determine the editing of video and audio. ‘Texas’ is a ‘database narrative’, which assembles its visuals, sounds, narratives, and even the identities of its characters from multiple databases.

    This DVD was designed and programmed so that there is no single version of any of the films. All the elements — including screen layout, the visuals and their combination, the music, the narrative, and the length – are subject to change every time the film is viewed.

    Lev Manovich is a Professor of Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego. His book ‘The Language of New Media’ (The MIT Press, 2001), is hailed as “the most suggestive and broad ranging media history since Marshall McLuhan.”

    For more information about Soft Cinema project, visit

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