Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

Machines of No More War


Course Schedule:

Tuesday/Thursday 4:10pm – 5:30pm Berlin (UTC + 2)

Professor: Natalia Fedorova
Semester: Spring 2024 (January 29  – May 21)
Subject: HRA
Course Level: 500
Number of Bard Credits: 4 credits
Course Title: Machines of No More War
Max Enrollment: 22
Schedule: Tue Thurs 4:10 – 5:30 Berlin (UTC + 2)
Language of Instruction: English

Technology is most widely used in warfare or commercial production. Since the end of WWII, however, technological art has been suggesting an alternative use of machinery. This course will focus on the technological art’s addressing ethical issues stemming from humanity’s operation of computational algorithms, biotechnology, and the robotic systems that underlie key structures of contemporary society.
The course will look into the history of programmed machines including the early automata by Greco-Alexandrian, and Byzantine traditions, and interwoven with aspects of the ancient Chinese, Indian, and Persian cultures. We will start with the mythological prototypes of the self moving machines and finish with the sci-fi visions of cohabitation with robots.

We will move on to the enlightenment age perceptions of automata through mechanical philosophy, including the perception of the clockwork universe, the corpuscule theory and mind-body dualism. Then through romanticism lens we will study the notion of electricity and electromagnetic field. We will conclude with considering the role of robotic art in implementing the embodied perception as well as critique of the algorithms.

The course will include historic works by Jean Tingley and Roy Ascott as well as contemporary work by Piere Huyghe, Trevor Paglen, Sun Yuan, Anish Kapoor, Semiconductor, Agnes Meyer Brandis, Rimini Protokoll, Code.Act, Robertina Sebjanic, and others.

Guidelines for the Statement of Purpose:
Craft a reflective statement of purpose explaining your interest in the Smolny Beyond Borders online course. The file should be saved with your name and course title as the filename and uploaded accordingly. Your statement’s clarity and substance will significantly influence our selection. Convey your motivations and aspirations for this course succinctly but thoroughly. Kindly write your statement in the course’s Language of Instruction.

Application Portal Instructions:
1) Use the Latin alphabet for all entries on the portal, including your name. If the Language of Instruction is Russian, you may use Cyrillic only within the Statement of Purpose file, and the title of the file should still be in English.
2) Refrain from using email addresses associated with Russian or Belarusian educational institutions.
3) While completing the “Required Information” section, ensure you fill in the “Province” field for your address.
4) Provide an address outside Russia or Belarus in both the “Required Information” and “Geographic Location Confirmation” sections of the “Online Course Application”. This ensures we can send your transcript.
5) You must press the “Sign” button twice during the application.
6) If you hold a bachelor’s degree, select “4th+” in the “Academic Year (online)” section.
7) Applicants either unaffiliated or affiliated with educational institutions in Russia and Belarus should list ‘Smolny Beyond Borders’ as their educational institution.
8) In the student ID section, enter ‘SBB’.
9) Consider drafting your motivation letter ahead of time. Save it as a separate file with this format: LastName_FirstName_CourseTitle for a smoother application process.