Posthuman industrialism: The mechanized body in Dada, Futurism and Functionalism

This subproject traces some contours of the early phase of the posthuman paradigm ca. 1900-1930. Focusing on presentations of technology, the cyborg and the mechanically framed human body, the project sees the artistic movements of the period as polarized between (1) an avant-garde playful criticism of technology (Dadaism, eg. the cyborgian sex of Picabia or Hannah Höch) and (2) a modernist embrace of technology stressing its smooth functions (Futurism and functionalism, eg. Bauhaus’ heaven of geometry). This dualism between imperfection and perfection is illuminated through Heidegger’s philosophy of technology, in which a consciousness of technology first arises through its dys-function (Heidegger 2006; cp. the disrupted function of Duchamp’s readymades (Jones 2004; Henderson; Jarry)). Moreover, the later Heidegger attacks modern technology for being inhuman in its foundation on abstract mathematical calculation, threatening to turn nature, including the human body, into its instrumental material (Heidegger 1962; cp. Le Corbusier’s idea of the machinic house with cold and intelligent inhabitants). 

Jacob Wamberg

Professor
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