WHEN HAL[9000]LY MET NEST[Y] – By @mjclacroix


On my MA I spent a couple of weeks at the Stanley Kubrick Archives at London College of Communication. 

If any of you get the opportunity to go it’s a must, not least as the office and research lab was designed in homage to the space station in 2001 Space Odyssey and look fantastic. I actually wanted to borrow props from 2001 for an exhibition, but whilst there as I could look at anything, you could say I took liberties with my research exposition, which meant I ‘had’ to just take a look at costumes from The Shining, Barry Lyndon, 2001 Space Odyssey… but then things genuinely started getting interesting. 

I was there to look for ephemera that would sign-post conversations academically toward a sense of ‘temporality’ in the archives or opportunities to create new narratives. Product placement in the 60s, being relatively new, and something Kubrick harnessed in 2001 A Space Odyssey, was of interest. 

Kubrick famously approached brands inviting them to pitch not products of the present, but of the future. The Hilton Space Station, PanAm Space Shuttle, Bell Telephone Company (Now AT&T) Johnson&Johnson, and of course IBM, the designers of HAL9000, stand out. For transparency, Kubrick and his art direct Roger Caras were careful to make it explicit to IBM the script, whereby on hearing the computer IBM has designed is implicated in the death of it’s crew and mission, withdrew completely any product relationship from the design of any malfunctioning murderous computer. (Infamously hard-line Kubrick fans insists HAL are alone letter removed from IBM.)

But amongst these I came across a typewritten piece of paper on [the malfunctioning prescient computer] HAL 9000 written by Kubrick on yellow paper, with amendments, about the emotions and mortal sensibility of the omniscient AI, and his fear of erasure. It had a lovely glow of the archive. In hindsight, the markings were not unlike the distinctive art direction of a prolific female trail blazer guest mentor.

 I requested to borrow Kubrick’s A4 notes to be exhibited amongst other sculptures in my RCA MA Painting degree show, and Christine Kubrick, being a painter, wrote me a good luck letter. I rebuilt HAL and installed him to pulse slowly on and off and set him in a 1.5 x 1m block of red wax, his pulse mimicking the + – + – + – circular patterns of desire, and apathy. 

Forward 10 years and Google Nest brief lands on me and my partner Tad’s desk and all I can think of is (wow Google Nest looks like Hal, imagine the conversation they’d have. The resemblance is undeniable) At the SCA  strategy and planning is so rigorous and underpins all of our creative decisions, it’s the journey mapped out in our divergence, convergence, and divergence in the way we execute briefs. So Tad and I began. 

But Then Tad mentioned, it… and the idea wouldn’t go away. Good Nest has authentic truths, and also – look at all this human behaviour, and insights, these are actually insights. People have tech-lash. Renters adjourn smart-tech until they have a mortgage. Google Nest Security make people feel at home wherever they were. (But then, Hal and Nest do make a cute couple) strategy strategy . (But… imagine the assets Nest would be on the Discovery space ship?) strat’ strat’ strat’. 

In the end, we couldn’t not take a gamble. This was my favourite film of all time, and here was a brief which meant I could pull it out of the bottom drawer and still say something genuine about Google Nest, and have fun telling a story. We did journey as far as our strategy and planning took us, and I tried my best not to backend the strategy onto the idea, but in the end, to execute an idea we loved meant, for us, executing it to best of our student ability.  

We ripped HAL9000’s voice to create an affable AI, a complicated AI with baggage. And Google Nest, the home-maker. Nest overcomes his perfectionism, helps him around The Discovery, plays Chess, encourages him to manage his faults with the Google enst Thermostat, regulates his behaviour, and a tech romance ensues. Que Marvin Gaye, and Home Is Where Your Nest Is.

 In the end though, strategy always wins. It’s not enough to be bold with an execution; without rigorous thinking and predatory problem solving, it’s flawed.  

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