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cricri sora ren

One initial hypothesis would be ‘what would a world generated by Artificial Intelligence look like?’ And the second hypothesis: aren’t we already there? How can we find our way around? Starting from this premise, Cricri sora ren, the duo formed by Christian von Borries (The Dubai in me, FID 2010) and AI, examines our world and the political fantasies that permeate it, focusing on three geographically concrete locations: so-called Communist China, Berlin and, as the centre of gravity, Putin’s post-2022 Russia in wartime. We find ourselves caught up in a dystopian historical-hysteria (our world?), in a maelstrom of images, the work of social media and video games. A very real world where AI and propaganda go hand in hand. A slippery world where, thanks to computer-generated images, von Borries, in his own way, compacts the same two moments as Putin, who compresses 1945-2022 into an intoxicating short circuit of time. But make no mistake: the two worlds, virtual and real, are more than interconnected. In this whirlwind, using AI-generated voices, texts and images, even the director finds himself swallowed up. However, as a good moralist, he exaggerates and points out the confusions, involutions and contaminations from one world to another. The result is a ‘film about the homogenisation of behaviour’, which he invites us to consider in the light of Walter Benjamin’s famous saying that ‘there is no document of culture that is not at the same time a document of barbarism’. ‘But could this also be a world,’ rejoices Cricri sora ren, ‘where the notion of authorship has disappeared? And where, at last, AI could produce results where utopias have failed?’ We have been warned.

Nicolas Feodoroff

In your previous films, The Dubai in me (FID 2010) as well as in Mocracy, Nerverland in me (FID 2011), the famous state and this ideal were seen as mirage. Here, in a dizzying maelstrom, you mix propaganda and IA. How did this project come up? How did you work with IA?

The Dubai in Me is the first film I ever made. And Mocracy, Nerverland in me, already expanding the idea of how images shape realities, was so far my wildest attempt to disbelieve them. With the latest possibilities of AI, these images now create a much more homogenized view of this world. And since Do you want to see part two? comes back to Dubai, this time to “Germany” and “St. Petersburg” in the “Heart of Europe”, we can witness how reality starts already to be shaped as if AI generated. I wrote a longer text about the moral, psychological and political aspects of this kind of filmmaking and its “passionless dialectics” (Heiner Müller) here.

As a starting point, there are footage shot in Berlin, Moscow and in the streets of Guiyang, in China. What led you to connect these situations? Marx?

Marx was abandoned in Russia by the Putinistas, and communism is forbidden in (West) Germany already since 1956 (when the KPD was banned), but he is still relevant for the KP of China, and resurfacing it seems through people revisiting his « Maschinenfragment”. The way this film is made, one hast to always look at smallest common denominators. Today, behavioral homogenization, amplified by digital tech, serves as this accelerator. That’s why a resurfacing Marx, at the beginning of the film and animated by machine learning, is staring at the viewer.

You create a kind of politic fiction (with at its center Putin), focused on Russian situation and propaganda (passed and current). You interest in this?

I was many times in Ukraine and Russia, the first time even in Moscow during Soviet times. Our Western view concerning Eastern Europe still seems very limited and distorted (not to mention China!). Putin the warmonger is a character mask between Europe and China, “a cosplayer from 1941” as stated in the film. I got the idea of an alternate history from Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. For example (spoiler!), I’m singing the ballade “Belsatzar” by Schumann/ Heine, which describes a tyrannicide. The subtitles and the footage, using the “Criminal Russia” deviation of the game GTA, now specify this into the year 2022. And the cruel year numbers in Moscows WW2 celebrations, 1945 combined with 2022 (as if it is all the same) become the dates of the birth and death of Putin.

You (or your avatar?), as well as your father make part of the film. Could you enlighten us about this choice?

My father was Unteroffizier der Wehrmacht, fighting in Stalingrad (and towards the end of WW2, occupation soldier in La Ciotat, and from there POW in Ouarzazate). The complex history between Russia and Germany goes way into the families. In this film, I think, this has to be addressed. The question who really is actually speaking becomes more and more vital nowadays. I animated two fotos of my father in Stalingrad, and a person that resembles me appears, speaks and sings as well in the film.

It seems that in these three countrie’s situations, it is (almost?) the same : “behavioral homogenization”.

Behavioral Homogenization is an unconscious process involving populations who are exposed to digital surveillance capitalism. Gilles Deleuze described the “control society” as a theoretical step beyond the disciplinary, i. e. punishing society to one where behavior is – deliberately unintentional – internalized. With the implementation of Machine Learning, the possibilities of control and selfcontrol became indistinguishable and limitless. At the level of populations and the individual body, this developement gives Foucault’s term “biopolitics” (biopouvoir) an extended meaning. That’s why the film includes AI generated clips of the migration catastrophe triggered by the EU in the Mediterranean. These clips avoid any victimization through fotos we are usually exposed to as described in Susan Sonntag’s “Regarding the Pain of Others”.

You quote Walter Benjamin, and his concept of dialectic image: your attempt here to build one of our times?

There is a (hidden) connection between all my films. They are inspired by different thinkers – or even father figures? (Dubai and Desert of the Real: Baudrillard. Mocracy: Kittler. Iphonechina: Deleuze. AI is the Answer – what was the Question?: Foucault. Benjamin, in his late aphoristic text “About the Concept of History”, points out some almost pre-postmodernist thoughts, arguing against the concept of authenticity: “History has to do with connections and with randomly spun causal chains. …We can … learn that from the past by pretending any moment of it to be present.”
In my view, this guiding principle makes the film postdramatic, a term borrowed from a specific metatext-driven current German theater school, and narrativizing, which means pretending multiple stories, collages etc. The goal is to create an effect among spectators rather than adhering strictly to a story. It combines diverse styles and footage itself as “after” or “beyond” dialogue. I wish Benjamin could see this film…

The name of the author (yours) disappears. The sign of the coming dystopia?

I am always advocating against the capitalist logic of copyright. This commodification of digital files is, until today, uncomprehensible for people in Eastern Europe and in China. Non of my films is claiming any rights: in this utopia, do what you want – me, too! I see the arrival of AI as a new tool to disguise the function of the author. The film’s director cricri sora ren is a black box like in AI. As soon as it becomes unclear who speaks (and what it all means anyway!), viewers are woken up. They have to make sense of it themselves. AI generated world simulators might actually help here, since humans seem to be failing everywhere. Algorithms become “modes of living” (Luciana Parisi). Ultimately, Do you want to see part two? is a film against normalization, against fascism, “looked after by machine itself” (Alan Turing).

Interviewed by Nicolas Feodoroff

  • International Competition
18:3027 June 2024La Baleine
09:1529 June 2024Artplexe 1
13:4530 June 2024Artplexe 2

Technical sheet

Germany, Russia, China / 2024 / Colour and B&W / 74'

Original version: English
Subtitles: French
Script: AI AI
Photography: Christian von Borries, Almira Saifulina
Editing: AI AI
Sound: AI AI

Production: Christian von Borries (masseundmacht production)
Contact: headquarter@masseundmacht.com

THE DUBAI IN ME, 2010, 75 min
MOCRACY, 2012, 73 min