Manus x Machina: Who does it better?

Arenike Adebajo 18 May 2016

Manus X Machina, this year’s Met Gala theme was exciting, challenging and provocative. The fashion, sadly, was anything but. There were a few standout dresses: Rita Ora’s Vera Wang collection gown, all feathers and slick silver; Kate Hudson in Atelier Versace, a deconstructed intergalactic prom dress; and Lara Stone, stunningly simple in Tom Ford. But what the fashion failed to do (what the Met Gala dresses arguably fail to do every year) was really engage with the theme, to challenge what it means to find humans and machines colliding. It doesn’t just mean that silver is the watchword!

The Film

Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) is one of the earliest feature length science fiction films ever made: it pips Orwell and Huxley to the post with its dystopian world, a society divided between machine workers and city planners. Visually stunning, its the music that gives Metropolis its edge. Huppertz’s soundtrack takes inspiration from Wagner and Strauss, layering aching strings, haunting vocals and an insistent feudalistic drumbeat over the silent footage. The cyborg incarnation of heroine Maria bridges the divide between human and machine, with the stylised acting and dancelike movement further blurring the distinction. Metropolis may not be an easy watch, but it offers a beautiful and poignant escape from the stresses of exam term.

The Album 

If the release of ‘Burn the Witch’ left you cold, and the rest of A Moon Shaped Pool failed to impress, it’s time to revisit the back catalogue. Thom Yorke’s distorted vocals on the opening of ‘Paranoid Android’ are sure to resonate with most of us this term: ‘Please can you stop that noise, I’m trying to get some rest.’ Radiohead are at there best creating creepy, troubling melodies from simple material, and though their classic album, Ok Computer, has become an indie cliche, that’s for good reason. I’m all for kicking the new stuff to touch, and indulging in a cathartic revival.

The Book

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is funny – really funny. As an English student, I can attest to the fact that at this time of year there are very few books capable of making me laugh, for obvious reasons: Hitchhiker’s is an exception. It stars the very paranoid android from which Radiohead took their inspiration – despite the fact that he is a robot, Marvin suffers from severe depression, and his character is a bitingly funny but meaningful imagining of where our humanity is located.

Something Different 

If you’re looking for something a little more challenging (and who isn’t, mid-revision?), Donna Haraway’s ‘Cyborg Manifesto’ is essential feminist reading, a thought experiment with profound implications. The metaphor of the cyborg challenges traditional boundaries of gender, feminism and politics: it’s relatively short, and full of exciting ideas that make it well worth the tough read.