Conceiving Ada (a film by Lynn Hershman Leeson)

Lynn Hershman Leeson)

DVD, microcinema
, 2010
Released in 1997 this movie celebrated one of the most underrated woman in the history of technology. In fact, Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace (here interpreted by Tilda Swinton) has been acknowledged as a mathematical genius who conceived and developed the first computer programming language, a century before the first computer was invented. The movie was directed by famous artist Lynn Hershman, who wrote a science fiction plot in which a female computer scientist creates intelligent avatars that travel back in time retrieving memories from individuals. She targets Ada and her life to discover the theories she used to create her computing language, being able to communicate with her till her death (Ada, beyond being a proto-feminist, worked at the Charles Babbage “difference engine” before dying). The movie now appears symbolic of the nineties virtual avant-garde. It was claimed to be the first movie to use “virtual sets”, and it features Bruce Sterling speculating in a computer video, John Perry Barlow interpreting Ada’s lover and a skinny Timothy Leary just a few months before his death. Furthermore the soundtrack was commissioned work by the celebrated anonymous cult group The Residents. Conceiving Ada is actually a cult classic, although watching it now in its dvd embodiment can make the viewer smile. Virtual reality has become the omnipresent network, but we still can’t make the magic featured in the movie. And the task of “saving” Ada (or her life and theories), attempted in the movie should be definitely embraced through some significant research.