Machines? Extension of man, integrating into himself, extension of social structures and integrating into them, they are, at all times, identical to ourselves. They are us; they are, like us, beautiful, and ugly, like us. To develop them, to construct them, is to construct ourselves.
(Lafitte, 1932/1972, p. 101)
In Reflections on the Science of Machines Jacques Lafitte anticipates McLuhan and Haraway, among others, in declaring a relationship between human and machine that is more than connection between discrete bodies. Rather there is the suggestion that what we might call ‘humans’ and what we might call ‘machines’ are parts of fully integrated linkages touching, changing and transmitting.
The Deus ex Machina was a theatrical device that epitomised this idea. First used by Aeschlus and Euripides it originally had an entirely mechanical form. A crane (mecane) was used to transform an actor into a god by flying him in over the Skene. The machina was deployed to dig the story out of a plot hole. It made a conscious break in the narrative and, to create a god, a sort of theatrical cyborg was enacted. The Deus ex Machina relied upon the smooth operation of its component parts: beam, winch, rope, theatre, play, audience, actor.
But what happens when things break down? Denis ex Machina presents practice led research as part of an Industry based PHD studentship with MIRIAD and FACT exploring mechanical dysfunction and anthropomorphism. For this exhibition CANAL Project Space will become part theatre, part playground, part test site for a series of machines which exist on the cusp of function and breakdown. An important aspect of these machines is that they are, to some extent, self-regarding. Video cameras and other sensor devices are integral parts of their mechanisms presenting a live feed of, and responding to, both their own inner workings and immediate surroundings. Throughout the exhibition I will also be present to tinker with, repair and observe the machines. During this time, like any visitor to the exhibition, I will be ‘seen’ by the machines becoming a part of the mechanism.
Alex Pearl, 2016