Presented in partnership with the Wisconsin Science Festival.
A visionary story of three generations of artists whose search for meaning and connection transcends the limits of life.
How do we relate to—and hold—our family’s past? Is it through technology? Through spirit? Art, poetry, music? Or is it through the resonances we look for in ourselves?
In Artificial, we meet the Kurzweils, a family of creators who are preserving their history through unusual means. At the center is renowned inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, who has long been saving the documents of his deceased father, Fredric, an accomplished conductor and pianist from Vienna who fled the Nazis in 1938.
Once, Fred’s life was saved by his art: an American benefactor, impressed by Fred’s musical genius, sponsored his emigration to the United States. He escaped just one month before Kristallnacht.
Now, Fred has returned. Through AI and salvaged writing, Ray is building a chatbot that writes in Fred’s voice, and he enlists his daughter, cartoonist Amy Kurzweil, to help him ensure the immortality of their family’s fraught inheritance.
Amy’s deepening understanding of her family’s traumatic uprooting resonates with the creative life she fights to claim in the present, as Amy and her partner, Jacob, chase jobs, and each other, across the country. Kurzweil evokes an understanding of accomplishment that centers conversation and connection, knowing and being known by others.
With Kurzweil’s signature humanity and humor, in boundary-pushing, gorgeous handmade drawings, Artificial guides us through nuanced questions about art, memory, and technology, demonstrating that love, a process of focused attention, is what grounds a meaningful life.
Amy Kurzweil is a New Yorker cartoonist and the author of Flying Couch: A Graphic Memoir. She was a 2021 Berlin Prize Fellow with the American Academy in Berlin, a 2019 Shearing Fellow with the Black Mountain Institute, and has received fellowships from MacDowell, Djerassi, and elsewhere.
She has been nominated for a Reuben Award and an Ignatz Award for “Technofeelia,” her four part series with The Believer Magazine. Her writing, comics, and cartoons have also been published in The Verge, The New York Times Book Review, Longreads, Literary Hub, WIRED and many other places. Kurzweil has taught widely for over a decade.