Internationally-renowned artists Al & Al talk us through their recently commissioned experimental film, The Creator
We first discovered Alan Turing (the man behind the ideas which gave birth to the computer age) when we started using computers in 1999 as part of our film making practice. We soon realised we felt a deep connection and resonance with his life.
What is mysterious about Alan Turing’s fate in Manchester, is that he arrived in the city as one of the most logical and rational thinkers living on earth, overseeing the creation of the world’s first computer. But in the end, after his arrest and conviction for being gay, he began seeing a Jungian therapist who encouraged him to keep a dream diary and explore his unconscious irrational mind.
As we began making the film about Alan, we realised the destiny of his pioneering idea to make ‘thinking machines’ will be that one day in the future, machines will search for their origins and discover Alan as their creator. Our film tells the legendary myth that thinking machines in the future will make about their creator’s life; an emotional story about how one of Britain’s greatest scientists ended up in a very dark place, because the country which he helped save from fascism, chemically castrated him because he was gay. The film enters Alan Turing’s dreams and memories in the last few hours of his life as he contemplates his symbolic suicide with a poisoned apple. Inside his secret dream diary he receives messages from an unseen world that guide him to his lost love and dearest friend Christopher.
We both grew up in Manchester playing computer games like Pac-Man, making programmes on our commodore 64’s, then between ‘87 and ‘93 listening to the sound of music made on a computer in The Hacienda. This formed in our minds a creative emancipatory experience of the computer, which later evolved into our film making practice. Since we started using computers to make our films, we have always wanted to make a film about Alan Turing, and have had many conversations about him in our studio.
When Cornerhouse commissioned us to make a film about Alan, we felt a Jungian synchronicity when they told us the premiere would be in our home city on the Sat 23 June 2012, which marks 100 years since his birth date. As Manchester is the birth place of the industrial world, and where the first computer was created, thinking machines will one day place special significance on the fact their creator also died in the city.