Cinema/Americanism/the robot

Summer 1989

Wollen begins by looking at the fascination with Americanism in the Soviet Union, as manifested in cinema, skyscrapers and the Ford production line. Taking on board Frederick Taylor’s ergonomic experiments and those of his imitators in the USSR, he considers the ways in which a combination of Fordism and Taylor’s contributions enabled humans to become part of the giant machine of car production. Gramsci’s arguments in favour of Fordism and his call for ‘rational socialism’ are set against Huxley’s satire of a Fordist society in Brave New World, with particular reference to the regulation of sexuality. The explosion of interest in robots from the 1920s onwards, with its high point in the film Metroplis, is considered, and cinema is seen as a medium that is both human and technological, a hybrid form. Writings by Walter Benjamin and Marshall McLuhan are also touched on, alongside current trends in computing. Wollen ends by speculating on a possible move away from a logic-centred model towards the possibility of something more artistic and organic.

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