Shape shifters

In an age when many of us spend our time shifting our twitching eyes between computer screens, the movies or TV screens, new-media artists Lev Manovich and Andreas Kratky have created Soft Cinema (MIT Press, $30) three “films” presented in DVD format but designed on software. Mission to Earth, Absences and Texas may look like films, but they were created with database software allowing them to run infinitely without repeating the same exact image sequences, screen layouts or narratives.

In coming up with the project, designers Manovich and Kratky enlisted the help of creative cultural pioneers in related fields, such as DJ Spooky and the Berlin-based architect, servo. The results are truly remarkable viewing and listening experiences.

Mission to Earth is a sci-fi tale about the immigrant experience, presented in a style showcasing several different screen frames at once. Absences is a poetic black-and-white film of moving abstraction that employed algorithms used by military and surveillance applications to edit the video and audio. And Texas is what the new media artists call a “database narrative,” a collage of visuals, sounds and narratives compiled from various databases. For more info, visit

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