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Discussion Panel on the Movie Ex Machina with Dr Brendon Stewart, Jacinta Frawley and Louise Fanning

  • Mitchell Theatre, SMSA 280 Pitt Street Sydney, NSW, 2000 Australia (map)

The Latin term deus ex machina refers to the function of a god who emerges from a machine. The "Machine," in this case, was a crane that lifted and held a god over the stage in ancient Greek and Roman drama. If and when the dramatic journey of a play became confused or could not logically resolve its trajectory a God, always a random God depending on which God was hauled up on the crane would drop in and deflect the play in such a way that a resolution would be achieved. 

This dates from at least the 5th century B.C. and Euripides (circa 484-406 B.C.) was one playwright who made frequent use of the device. Since the late 1600s, "deus ex machina" has been applied in English to unlikely saviors and improbable events that bring order out of chaos in sudden and surprising ways.

In the film Ex Machina Programmer Caleb Smith, who works for the dominant search engine company Blue Book, wins an office contest for a one-week visit to the luxurious, isolated home of the CEO, Nathan Bateman. The only other person there is Nathan's servant Kyoko, who, according to Nathan, does not speak English. Nathan has built a humanoid robot named Ava with artificial intelligence. Ava has already passed a simple Turing test; Nathan wants Caleb to judge whether Ava is genuinely capable of thought and consciousness, and whether he can relate to Ava despite knowing she is artificial.

 The magazine New Scientist in a multi-page review said, "It is a rare thing to see a movie about science that takes no prisoners intellectually ... [it] is a stylish, spare and cerebral psycho-techno thriller, which gives a much needed shot in the arm for smart science fiction."[33] The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis gave the film a 'Critic's Pick', calling it "a smart, sleek movie about men and the machines they make".[34] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times recommended the film, stating: "Shrewdly imagined and persuasively made, 'Ex Machina' is a spooky piece of speculative fiction that's completely plausible, capable of both thinking big thoughts and providing pulp thrills."

Join us as our three panelists present their take on this fascinating transhuminist drama.

Dr Brendon Stewart is an artist. He spends much of his time painting and gardening. He loves things, especially his Citroen DS 23 Injection Electronique, designed just after the second world war by Italian sculptor Flaminio Bertoni. Cars have been throughout the 20th century almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals: I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as purely magical objects. The Citroen Deesse (the Goddess) fell from the sky inasmuch as it appears at first sight as a superlative object. An object is the best messenger of a world beyond that of nature: one can easily see in an object at once a perfection and an absence of origin, a closure and a brilliance, a transformation of life into matter (matter is much more magical than life), and something that belongs to the realm of fairy-tales. The Goddess has all the features of an object from another universe or at least from our own science-fiction.

Jacinta Frawley is a Jungian Analyst and Training Analyst (ANZSJA) in private practice in southern Sydney and is especially interested in the application of Jungian thought in the everyday.

Louise Fanning is a doctoral candidate at Western Sydney University in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts. Louise’s area of inquiry is film costume, and asks how ancient, traditional and contemporary masks and their myths inform the representation, and our apprehension of the costumed cinematic body. Louise’s particular focus is the representation of artificially intelligent humanoid robots in film. Louise draws on her experience as a costume designer for film and television, and deploys a Jungian method of interpretation which views myth and its visual manifestations as a fantastical creation of our inner lives connected to aesthetic display. Louise completed a Master of Arts, Cultural Psychology(s) (Jungian Studies) at UWS in 2005, and a Master of Design (Research) at UTS in 2012. The title of that thesis is: Suffering Flesh, Spectacular Bodies: Connecting Costume and Cinema Through an Analysis of Symbolism, Myth and Ritual. The thesis can be viewed on the UTS Digital Thesis Collection site:



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Just pay at the door. Everybody welcome.


Date: 8th September 2017
Time: 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Venue: Mitchell Theatre Level 1 Sydney Mechanics' School
of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney
Cost: Members $15 Non-Members $25 Non-Member
Concession $20

*Psychotherapists and other practitioners can obtain credit for Professional Development hours recognised by CAPA, PACFA and ACA for this presentation.