November 30, 2004
For your amusement, an 18th century automaton with implications for the ontology of performance and "the quest for mechanical life"-- Jacques de Vaucanson's gold-plated mechanical duck, of which Voltaire famously quipped: "Without the shitting duck, there would be nothing to remind us of the glory of France." See the duck perform. This is an exact replica of the duck automaton created by Vaucanson. Read Mark Sussman's Performance Studies dissertation on automata, including those created by Vaucanson--you can download it for free. Or, read his article in TDR. And, for a real gem, read Heinrich von Kleist's classic 1810 meditation "On the Marionette Theatre": "Grace appears most purely in that human form which either has no consciousness or an infinite consciousness. That is, in the puppet or in the god."
Posted by BKG at November 30, 2004 10:00 AM