Animals in the Machine: Robotic Animal Agents

Transmedia Arts Seminar

How mechanized animals might produce a disturbance that provokes possibility.
Picture of Animals in the Machine: Robotic Animal Agents


Building on the work around cyborgs and the non-human “others,” this talk illustrates the development of several types of robotic animals and insects, from animal drones and animal “spys,” to artistic robotic/cyborgean animal installations. My aim is to begin to discern in which cases a possible animal “agency” might provoke a rethinking of the human-technological-animal relationship. Looking specifically at work such as Korean/US artist Doo Sung Yoo’s animal-machine hybrids, biomimetic “mixed societies” of robotic and live cockroaches, and animal drones and automata, this talk examines questions of relationality, and possibilities for how mechanized animals, controlled by humans and, at times, at their least “animal,” might produce a disturbance that provokes possibility as a dissenting agent.

Jen Parker-Starbuck is the Head of School of Performing and Digital Arts at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is the author of Cyborg Theatre (2011), co-author of Performance and Media: Taxonomies for a Changing Field (2015), and co-editor of Performing Animality: Animals in Performance Practices, (2015), and many other book chapters and journal articles. She was the Editor of Theatre Journal from 2015-19, and is a Contributing Editor to PAJ, and the International Journal of Performing Arts and Digital Media. She is a Theme Leader for Story Lab, a strand of the ARHC funded Creative Clusters Programme StoryFutures.

metaLAB is partnering with the Mahindra Humanities Center to sponsor the Transmedia Arts Seminar, chaired by Magda Romanska, and Hana Worthen.