Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Soft Cinema: Navigating the database

Soft Cinema, the DVD by Lev Manovich and Andreas Kratky encloses 3 ‘films’: ‘Mission to Earth’, ‘Absences’, and ‘Texas’. The films are based on database of videos, visuals, soundscapes, music, narratives, voice overs…

Then a software in real time was created enabling two major factors to manipulate the database: human subjectivity and the variable choices made by this custom software. As a consequence, the films can run infinitely without ever exactly repeating the same sequences, layouts of the screen and narratives. The result is Soft Cinema, or a cinema that fits the information age. Twentieth century cinema was too reflective of the industrial age since in form it consists of an engine that drives movement and the electricity that powers it. The role of the database and the digital computer is not visible in twentieth century cinema, so this is where this project intervenes.

Lev Manovich, in the catalog accompanying the DVD, asks how can new media narrative take into account that its elements are organized in a database? How can new abilities to store vast amounts of data, to automatically classify, index, link, search and instantly retrieve, lead to new kinds of narratives?

The Soft Cinema software is not to be praised as the main achievement of this project. The narrative in the films were inspiring, reflective of the current world of layering, traveling, instant messaging, the sentences are detail oriented, you would hear the voiceover saying ‘the woman kept eating, she did not take off her sunglasses, so the pieces of chicken looked purple, almost violet, but they tasted ok, after she poured some soya sauce on them’ and others like ‘the car wash was her favorite scene in the world, she did not remember when this passion started exactly, the brushes attacking the front window of the car like the legs of a giant octopus’.

To navigate the actual database, visit the website:

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