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Azon Machine

This ‘Documentary’ is a personal and political statement, as well as a protest piece examining the trust we give white males in the media. It is meant to be on the edge of realism as much as possible and be confusing to the viewers as to the reliability of the information that is being conveyed, and therefore it attempts to raise questions about the reliability of the media that they commonly accept as factual.

Personal Notes On the Production of Azon Machine:

Growing up, I always loved watching the Science Channel and the Discovery Channel. Early on, they were some of the only channels I was allowed to watch, but later, as I grew older, often they were mostly the ones I was interested in watching (Haha I wonder why!). I especially loved the shows that examined complex theoretical sciences, or delved into the states of our universe. Many of these prominently and overwhelmingly feature older, caucasian male scientists, explaining wildly intricate concepts in as simple terms as they can. They have narrators, who play up the amazing nature of the science (even though the science itself is already pretty amazing), while providing everyman-esque translations of what the scientists are exploring. Usually in an accented voice that is Astounding. They play orchestra music, creating an epic landscape out of university laboratories, and show tons of CG graphics whenever they can. All of it is grandiose. The claims made and questions asked within the shows are also very grandiose. And- in the end, the science is hardly ever backed up to the audience. The only citation is the Scientist’s words. There is never any given proof, and you are to are just supposed to accept the fact that since they say they have a .PhD, whatever they say will be intelligent, honest, and factual.  There is a complete passing over of trust from the viewer to the television show, all because there is a white man in a lab coat saying he has a .PhD. Him saying this on television, makes it true. Even if it is a statement about the very fabric of reality, it can be trusted. And sometimes, they get their information wrong or explain something incorrectly, and I know this because I’ve watched so many of these shows, and sometimes, they contradict each other. Masses of people change their understanding of reality itself because they blindly follow these people. Not that These intellectual shows are the problem, oh no- They often contain amazing and valuable information that gives the viewer a better understanding of our place in science, history, and technology. The Problem is blind trust in the White Man. Masses that think of themselves as being intelligent for knowing the things they have learned in part from the shows on Discovery, National Geographic, and Science. Masses of people blindly follow false news sources and articles in thebsame way. I find this occurrence extremely disturbing. 

There is no situation, in my opinion- where this type of power should be given to television media, yet the shows assume this role of perfect absolute intelligence. It is gross, racist, sexist, and condescending. I appreciate the sentiment behind the shows, the effort to educate and draw interest to sciences- and I recognize their success (I love theoretical physics and engineering largely because of these channels), but I do not appreciate that they do not back up their statements with resources for citations. That is almost all it would take for the white men in these shows to no longer be assuming this role of all-powerful God-teacher.

This Documentary mixes true science with fake science. It combines actual names of scientists and scientific locations, studies, theories, discoveries, etc. with fabricated ones. Locations did not exist when The documentary says they do, years are incorrect, scientists never existed, and neither did AZON.

The project came about within a class at CalArts. The class was taught by Mike Bryant, and entitled “Finding Signals From the Noise”. The class was essentially focused around statistics, but also examined randomness, chaos theory, and chaos- and how it is deterministic. It dealt with examining trends and how to use a variety of data to pinpoint statistic significances. It showed how to predict future data without a doubt - to know what will or will not occur in scenarios of chaos. 

Each outome variable in an equation is a dimension. Two variables means 2 dimensions (x,y), one creates one, three creates three (x,y,z), but if you add more than three variables, than you have more dimensions, ones that we can no longer visualize spatially. There are translations however, that break down 4D+ things into visible systems. They often do this by turning each plane into a new 3d object.

Mathematics like this influenced me greatly, just as the science shows did. Chaos greatly interested me too, as did quantum theory still, and learning that chaos is deterministic was a big shift in my worldview. Chaos is not completely random. Seeing this demonstrated in the class mathematically with Lorenz systems and bifurcation diagrams blew my mind. The fact that you can run simulations on future states was amazing to me too. A computer can do this because of on- off states, to me correlates completely with quantum states. If you insert a two dimensional response variable over and over again it will change and morph forever based off the initial state.

I learned that if you had perfect knowledge you could name occurrences and trends in the future through chaos, whereas with randomness you could not, for randomness is completely independent of the variable of the present. Chaos is different, it is deterministic because- based on where the variable begins, you can know what may happen in it’s future- it is sensitive to initial conditions.

Sensitivity to initial conditions is more commonly known as the “butterfly effect”, named after a paper given by Edward Lorenz in 1972 to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., titled Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas? and popularized by the time travel movie.

With randomness there is never a starting point. The deck of cards sequence in this film creates a space within the world that seems very deterministic, and I am playing with that- because he starts with a deck and pulls a card from it. Every shuffle could be slightly different, and if every shuffle effects the mixing of the cards, and the initial variable changes every time, than the shuffling system is deterministic. It is connected me to the Lorenz Systems I learned about in the Signal and noise class, and those diagrams actually influence the designs of the universe graphics in this piece as well. Change in the smallest amount while shuffling, be it even one thin card, will obviously change the outcome of the card you will pull. There is a lot of real science peppered in the wrong locations in this film. Knowledge gained in the class about strange attractors, Arnold tongues, and Bifurcation theory all play integral roles in the development of this piece.

Even the Name AZON for Alternate Zero Observance and Navigation comes from the idea that scientists in the fictitious AZON laboratories are examining worlds wherein zero is slightly different, and therefore since reality is chaotic and deterministic around zero, than everything in the alternate universes change.
In short, the science is fantastic, the politics are not, there are many lies and many truths, and I have attempted to make a film that plays with all of it, as well as showcases my own artwork inspired by the science.