Mike Winkelmann's Transparent Machines

Does this short video signal a new area of artistic political protest?
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A still from Transparent Machines by Mike Winkelmann
A still from Transparent Machines by Mike Winkelmann

Will we have to think of a new name for this sort of thing? Transparent Machines is a short video by the American graphic designer, composer and film maker, Mike Winkelmann, a.k.a. Beeple. He's made music videos for the LA label Brainfeeder. Yet he's also produced this thought-provoking animation commenting on the recent National Security Agency leaks. Visually, it brings to mind a car advert, aurally, it has a soundbed of German techno, and spoken-word commentary. Yet, in terms of message, Transparent Machines has more in common with a newspaper editorial than a Vevo clip.

"Our society is obsessed with the conflicting concepts of transparency and privacy," Winkelmann says, by way of introduction to the film. "We are 'outraged' by the actions of the NSA, yet continue to willfully upload more and more of our personal information to Facebook and Google. This film explores the contradictory nature of our actions and beliefs regarding transparency."

 

A still from Transparent Machines by Mike Winkelmann
A still from Transparent Machines by Mike Winkelmann

It's a nice point, and while Winkelmann might not be the first, or perhaps even the most eloquent person to express the point, his animation is a canny way to get it across. The clip's main conceit is that, while we demand, transparent and perfectly functional governmental bodies, our own use of private data is clunkily apparent. In Winkelmann's eyes, we are the transparent machines.

This isn't the first time Winkelmann has produced this sort of commentary. His Subprime animation from 2009 won't have Paul Krugman scratching his head in wonder, but it is a nice way of illustrating over-inflation in the housing market.

 

A still from Transparent Machines by Mike Winkelmann
A still from Transparent Machines by Mike Winkelmann

We've already written about how poster design has adapted well to the digital age. Could films like Winkelmann's find some new place in our culture, somewhere between a promo video, a protest song and an op-ed piece? We'll certainly keep an eye it.

 

Watch the full video above. For more, go to Winkelmann's Vimeo page here. For more on graphic design throughout the ages, consider our Archive of Graphic Design. And for insight into a less gentle age of political persuasion, take a look at Iron Fists. Buy them from the people who made them, here.


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