Dr. Machina

Written by Sabine Küper on . Posted in Feed the Sense, Subversives, The Passenger

Dr. Machina appears like an oracle processed by the goddess of artificial intelligence hunting in the fields of American comic-history. Dark creatures, superheroes, distinguished gentlemen and mysterious women produce absurd dialogues in single panel esthetics fabricating an enjoyable sense of strangeness.

A breathless blond, for example, speaks from the back of a pokerfaced man peering earnestly from the top of a yellowish trench coat: “Stop Eating! Those were not onion rings!” He answers: “Why should I?! I can pretend! Just like mustaches and marriage!” The ambiguity of the dialogue ridicules marvelously gender-coded scripts used in countless dialogues of Hollywood movies. The title “Onion Rings” is orchestrated in a correspondence with tags at the bottom of the single panel occurring like a sentence with a secret code: “Can, Not, Stop.”

Dr. Machina’s Single Cell is a series of artwork fusing graphic elements of American Comics from the 1940s to 1950s with digital formats. Single elements of D-list comics are picked and processed with a fine mixture of software and handwork. The colors and the text are the result of a variety of machine learning applications re-fabricating a sourced comic panel combined with original design elements and re-contextualizing it into our digital age. Elements of content-management linking users to large networks based on keywords and the operative quality of user experience, such as scrolling and clicking, are part of the composition as well.

The result on the artwork is witty and profound as well. In the panel “My Love,” a male figure seems to be bewitched by an attractive female brunette. His and her cartoon-features are sparkled by reflections of red.  They are standing in front of a house in the woods characterized by red window shutters. Their pose reminds of the sibyls “Hansel and Gretel” in the Grimm Brothers’ fairytale, hoping for shelter while approaching the trap house of a cannibal witch. The man says: “Our dream house, my love! Blood-colored shutters.” The title of the Panel is “My Love” with a lone tag at the bottom: “Shutters.”

The titles and tags are contrasting the intricate and often invisible coding at work in our digital lifestyles as well as the new norms in language that have their own culture in a network of click options. On each panel, there is always a sentence that can be made from the alphabetical reordering of all the words inside the comic. The hidden script of a part-narrator/part-program are an essential element of the voice of Dr. Machina.

Words and images are inextricably linked and fused, triggering meaning, while they are joined by the tension of creation amid our digital technology frameworks.  Dr. Machina embraces processed comic esthetics but enriched by a satirical way of coding. Throughout Single Cell, we see an experiment of deconstructing the illusion of intellectual control without losing the dream of visual thinking expressed by an artwork.

Dr. Machina offers a stunning body of visual esthetics and conceptual framework in a playful way. The references to the esthetics and ideals of the 1950s are corresponding with American Pop Art, but the work is more pleading for the exploration of a new digital reality. It uses the collage-like capacity of comics to show that perception is always an active process of incorporating and reevaluating different vantage points and is using elements of digital communication to compose an impressive but joyful series of contemporary graphic-art.

Have a look at the work: drmachina.com



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