The Man Machine: Technologizing the human body and humanizing technology

Tetsuo II: Body Hammer by Shin'ya Tsukamoto, Japanese cult classic from 1992

28 July 2018

James Whale and David Cronenberg once presented dystopian visions of the future with Frankenstein and eXistenz, but the humanization of technology now seems a given. Have we cleared the final hurdle? Eye looks back and ahead with a programme on the fusion between man and machine and the role of high-tech and big data.

Victor Henry Frankenstein built a brand-new human being out of freshly exhumed body parts and brought it to life with thousands of volts in a juddering laboratory under spectacular spark showers. Barely alive, the loosely stitched creature personified by Boris Karloff turned against its maker in a fit of rage. The implantation of self-learning and bio-organic data-collecting silicon chips in the human body is now a reality and artificial intelligence is turning into a serious competitor for the human brain.


In the not too distant future, humans will have evolved into extremely intelligent cyborgs, as foreshadowed in Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop (1987). This is, at any rate, what is predicted by the future-obsessed scientists in California who want to deliver us from our natural limitations.

raging technology

Eye’s The Man Machine explores the old fantasy of the man machine and the visualisation of the latest technological developments in cinema. How do we bring our lives and bodies into line with raging technology and the rise of big data? The implications of this question are considered in the film programme, the thematically related exhibition by the Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda – who works with computer data and quantum mechanics – and in talk shows and lectures.

The programme presents iconic characters from film history, including ‘Futura, der Maschinenmensch’ from Fritz Lang’s classic Metropolis (1927), Frankenstein’s monster (Bride of Frankenstein, 1935, James Whale) and the avenging hero of iron and scrap metal in the cyber-punk production Tetsuo: the Iron Man (1989).

in love with an operating system

Also featured in the programme are visions of the future both pessimistic and optimistic. They range from Dr. Morbius who lives among aliens in Forbidden Planet (Frank Mcleod Wilcox, 1956), Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville (1965), George Lucas’ THX 1138 (1971) and Mamoru Oshii’s anime Ghost in the Shell (1995) to Spike Jonze’s Her (2013), in which a professional writer falls in love with a self-aware and self-learning computer operating system, a relationship that has its problems.

All possible scenarios about the interaction between human and machine intelligence are highlighted in the four-week film programme which draws richly on Eye’s own collection.

film programme (selection)

  • Metropolis (Fritz Lang DE 1927)
  • Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale US 1935)
  • Forbidden Planet (Fred M. Wilcox US 1956)
  • Alphaville (Jean-Luc Godard FR 1965)
  • THX 1138 (George Lucas US 1971)
  • Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Shin’ya Tsukamoto JP 1989)
  • Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (Shin'ya Tsukamoto JP 1992)
  • Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii JP 1995)
  • eXistenZ (David Cronenberg CA GB FR 1999)
  • Her (Spike Jonze US 2013)
  • Ex Machina (Alex Garland GB 2014)

The Man Machine, 18 October - 13 November 2018; films, guests, live music and film talk shows. Exhibition by Ryioji Ikeda 15 September - 2 December 2018. Eye Filmmuseum, IJpromenade 1, 1031 KT Amsterdam.