“Are We Human?” Exhibit: A Media Archaeology of Ingenious Designs

A Media Archaeology of Ingenious Designs exhibit will serve as the reference point to a seminar and a workshop I co-organized with Jussi Parikka, as part of the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial, “Are We Human?” in November 2016.

The project will be based on a speculative question:

What if… advanced media machines [were] born as part of Muslim culture? … What if the age of programmable machines and advanced technologies could be said to have started in the ‘Arab-Islamic Renaissance’ of 800-1200? … Automata mirror and deflect, distort and circulate as machines of imaginary and real extensions of the supposedly human. They also question how human practices can be automated in the uncanny lives of technological artefacts. Automata are machines that situate questions of the human and its others as part of a deep-time media archaeology of robots and automata, and alternative geographies of design culture. Ask what the human is, and you also implicitly ask: what is not human, what is just about human, and what is barely human.

tavus kusu
Peacock fountain with automated servants from al-Jazari, The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices: Kitáb fí ma’rifat al-hiyal al-handasiyya.(1206) MS Ahmet III 3472 in the Topkapi Palace Library, Istanbul

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