Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

Machines of No More War


Course Schedule:

Tuesday/Thursday 4:10pm – 5:30pm Berlin (UTC + 2)

Professor: Natalia Fedorova
Semester: Spring 2024 (January 29  – May 21)
Subject: HRA
Course Level: 500
Number of Bard Credits: 4 credits
Course Title: Machines of No More War
Max Enrollment: 22
Schedule: Tue Thurs 4:10 – 5:30 Berlin (UTC + 2)
Language of Instruction: English

Technology is most widely used in warfare or commercial production. Since the end of WWII, however, technological art has been suggesting an alternative use of machinery. This course will focus on the technological art’s addressing ethical issues stemming from humanity’s operation of computational algorithms, biotechnology, and the robotic systems that underlie key structures of contemporary society.
The course will look into the history of programmed machines including the early automata by Greco-Alexandrian, and Byzantine traditions, and interwoven with aspects of the ancient Chinese, Indian, and Persian cultures. We will start with the mythological prototypes of the self moving machines and finish with the sci-fi visions of cohabitation with robots.

We will move on to the enlightenment age perceptions of automata through mechanical philosophy, including the perception of the clockwork universe, the corpuscule theory and mind-body dualism. Then through romanticism lens we will study the notion of electricity and electromagnetic field. We will conclude with considering the role of robotic art in implementing the embodied perception as well as critique of the algorithms.

The course will include historic works by Jean Tingley and Roy Ascott as well as contemporary work by Piere Huyghe, Trevor Paglen, Sun Yuan, Anish Kapoor, Semiconductor, Agnes Meyer Brandis, Rimini Protokoll, Code.Act, Robertina Sebjanic, and others.