The aesthetic machine
in The machinic city
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Chapter 4 provides a historical account of aesthetic machines, with a focus on performance and the use of technology, from ancient Greek theatre’s use of the device of the deus ex machina to contemporary theatre and its use of digital props. It discusses the critique of inauthenticity in art that makes use of machine-components and the associated argument that machines overshadow the human performer. To counter this, it is argued that we need to acknowledge the artistic relevance of human-machine hybrids to move beyond human-centric and technocentric arguments. The importance of twentieth-century avant-garde art movements as influential references for contemporary digital performance is stated, with references to Futurism and the Agit-Theatre of Attractions. This is followed by a description of cinematic machines, with a particular focus on Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera and its similarities to A Machine To See With. The post-1960s performative turn is described as a key event in performance art through the dissolution of the barrier between stage and audience and through the ability to blur art and life. This is illustrated through some of its key movements, including Neo-Concretism, Situationism, Fluxus and Happening. The assemblage of aesthetic machines and the digital paradigm is illustrated through the Cybernetic Serendipity event, which foregrounded the artistic potential of the computer’s procedural logic as a non-human actant. Finally, the paradigm of the machine as an autonomous artist is discussed through events such as the use of artificial intelligence agents in the generation of art.

The machinic city

Media, performance and participation

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