4.672 / 4.673
Automatism in Art and Architecture—Installation Art

4.672 — graduate subject
4.673 — undergraduate subject

Prerequisites: undergraduate — 4.601 or permission of instructor
Prerequisites: graduate — 4.601 or 4.606 or permission of instructor

While automatism is closely associated with the French surrealists and their method for composing texts and images via psychic automatism, the term likewise refers to a centuries-old concept connoting a spectrum of self-directed, mechanical, or uncontrollable processes across historical, social, and cultural contexts. This interdisciplinary seminar focuses on iterations of the deeply-rooted concept of automatism, including mechanized automatons; philosophical discourses of materialism and metaphysics; the legal definition of individuals; various psychological and physical disorders; as well as spontaneous social and political disruptions. The class uses this network of associations to examine specific automatic practices relating to such topics as: Parisian café concerts of the fin-de-siècle; the inventions of photography, chronophotography, and film; the Uncanny; Modernist and contemporary architecture; robotics and animatronics; as well as media theories rooted in spectacle, simulacra, and the apparatus. We will analyze the results/works by Étienne-Jules Marey, Loïe Fuller, the Italian futurists, Marcel Duchamp, Dziga Vertov, André Breton and the surrealists, Fritz Lang, Charlie Chaplin, Le Corbusier, Leni Riefenstahl, Guy Debord, Andy Warhol, Greg Lynn, and Roxy Paine, among others. Through in-depth textual and visual analysis as well as cultural and intellectual histories, the resulting typology of automatism will provide a useful intellectual framework for describing, explaining, and/or assessing creative and critical engagements with automatic processes, while fostering a greater appreciation for the myriad fears and desires such engagements inspire.