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O Magazine
2015-2017

Man in the machine

by Joan Pons

Forgotten and rarely defended, Os Resentidos were a band with true sparks of genius even in their more obscure tracks. In the almost unknown O xaponés CarmiñaAntón Reixa gave voice to a lout that starts kicking a machine (be it a vending one, a jackpot, who cares?) that doesn’t give him what he wants. Like everybody else, he needs to canalise his hatred through a real flesh and bone scapegoat, and so he attacks the supposed Japanese (presumably short in size) he thought inhabited the machine: a human animalising himself by humanising a machine, a beautiful rebound translating properties from one to the other.

The fact that behind each machine and technological artefact there’s always the hand of man is something we only remember when these don’t work as well as we would like them to. This isn’t well calibrated, well adjusted, well oiled, because if artificial intelligence exists, does artificial incompetence exist too? And what about artificial negligence?

It’s while pondering on these doubts that we also feed the fantasy or joke that not only is the human hand behind the machine, but there’s someone human actually inside it. A very extended and funny illusion that gives way to urban legends that seem though by Francisco Ibáñez and used by creatives as a motor of ideas to come up with the weirdest brainstorming “what if…?”, like the ones presented by agency Scholz & Friends from Berlin for job seeking web site Jobsintown.de.

This week’s GIF is also a continuation of this idea. Progressbar is a micro-animation created by French artist Vincent Broquarie in 2013 initially thought for Vimeo, but which finds in the brevity of the GIF the best fitting format for its expressivity. In this case, it’s a gag, less innocent that it seems, about the moment in which we surprise ourselves thinking that our life is what escapes us while we watch downloading bars or cursing at the buffering or fantasising about the person responsible for the fact a video uploads much faster or slower than another (in this case, an embed worker with his tractor).

Man in the machine – O Productora Audiovisual

Somehow, this GIF reminds us of our spoiled behaviour when it comes to technological advances. We have taken too much for granted the May 68 motto “we want it all and we want it.” Should this be an article for a Sunday paper supplement, now I should elaborate, as if I was an emotional theory guru, a theory on the culture of acceleration and instant results; or of the society of show business (although maybe one doesn’t exclude the other). But it probably be more effective to go back to the fragment of Louis C.K.’s monologue in his show Hilarious in which he scorns us for being spoiled and impatient brats that prefer to have a tantrum before the occasional malfunctioning of a technological advance rather than marvelling before the new invention: