Watch Brian Eno’s Experimental Film “The Ship,” Made with Artificial Intelligence

“How is Bri­an Eno still find­ing unchart­ed waters after half a cen­tu­ry spent mak­ing music?” asked The Verge’s Jamieson Cox after the release of Eno’s 25th album, The Ship. Call­ing it a “dark near-mas­ter­piece,” The Onion’s A.V. Club expressed sim­i­lar aston­ish­ment. The album “can hold its own among the very best in a career full of bril­liant work…. Forty-one years after Anoth­er Green World, Eno is still for­ag­ing for new musi­cal ground, and what he’s able to come up with is noth­ing short of mirac­u­lous. When lis­ten­ing to The Ship, we get the sense that he will nev­er stop.”

Should you think that an exag­ger­a­tion, note that since The Ship, Eno has already released yet anoth­er crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed ambi­ent album, Reflec­tion—like its pre­de­ces­sor, a somber sound­track for somber times. And like anoth­er end­less­ly pro­duc­tive mul­ti­me­dia artist of his gen­er­a­tion, Lau­rie Ander­son, Eno hasn’t only con­tin­ued to make work that feels deeply con­nect­ed to the moment, but he has adapt­ed to wave after wave of tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion, this time around, har­ness­ing arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence to cre­ate a “gen­er­a­tive film” drawn from The Ship’s title track (below).

You can see a trail­er for the film at the top of the post, but this hard­ly does the expe­ri­ence jus­tice, since each viewer’s—or user’s—expe­ri­ence of it will be dif­fer­ent. As Pitch­fork describes the project: “On a web­site, ‘The Ship’ plays, and the user can click on tweets of news sto­ries, which appear along­side his­tor­i­cal pho­tos.” The film uti­lizes “a bespoke arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence pro­gramme,” the site explains, “devel­oped by the Dentsu Lab Tokyo,” explor­ing “var­i­ous his­tor­i­cal pho­to­graph­ic images and real-time news feeds to com­pose a col­lec­tive pho­to­graph­ic mem­o­ry of humankind.” (Dentsu received a pres­ti­gious prize nom­i­na­tion from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion for their work.)

It’s a con­cep­tu­al­ly grandiose project—which makes sense giv­en its source mate­r­i­al. The Ship, the musi­cal project, takes its inspi­ra­tion from the Titan­ic, “the ship that could nev­er sink,” Eno told The New York Times, “and… the First World War was the war that we couldn’t pos­si­bly lose—this men­tal­i­ty suf­fused pow­er­ful men. They get this idea that, ‘We’re unstop­pable, so there­fore, we’ll go ahead and do it….’ And they can’t.” Eno con­tin­ues in this vein of trag­ic explo­ration with the film, remark­ing in a state­ment:

Humankind seems to teeter between hubris and para­noia: the hubris of our ever-grow­ing pow­er con­trasts with the para­noia that we’re per­ma­nent­ly and increas­ing­ly under threat. At the zenith we realise we have to come down again… we know that we have more than we deserve or can defend, so we become ner­vous. Some­body, some­thing is going to take it all from us: that is the dread of the wealthy. Para­noia leads to defen­sive­ness, and we all end up in the trench­es fac­ing each oth­er across the mud.

The inter­ac­tive visu­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion takes these themes even fur­ther, ask­ing how much we as spec­ta­tors of hubris and para­noia are com­plic­it in per­pet­u­at­ing them, or per­haps chang­ing and shap­ing their direc­tion through tech­nol­o­gy: “Does the machine intel­li­gence pro­duce a point of view inde­pen­dent of its mak­ers or its view­ers? Or are we—human and machine—ultimately co-cre­at­ing new and unex­pect­ed mean­ings?”

You be the judge. See your own per­son­al­ized ver­sion of Eno’s The Ship film here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bri­an Eno on Why Do We Make Art & What’s It Good For?: Down­load His 2015 John Peel Lec­ture

Bri­an Eno Lists 20 Books for Rebuild­ing Civ­i­liza­tion & 59 Books For Build­ing Your Intel­lec­tu­al World

Lau­rie Ander­son Intro­duces Her Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty Instal­la­tion That Lets You Fly Mag­i­cal­ly Through Sto­ries

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Shivam says:

    Hi, Josh Jones

    Thanks for shar­ing the infor­ma­tion and out­line ideas on the rel­e­vant top­ic that I was look­ing since a long time. I am always keen to know in depth on this. My knowl­edge has now stepped ahead and helped me to make my cre­ative idea to go on a per­fect way. Your blog will be a help­ing hand for me espe­cial­ly , as I am keen and begin­ner in Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing field. So, let me be a part of your blog read­er on reg­u­lar basis and let me stay con­nect­ed with your blog for the lat­est updates.

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