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Exhibitions 06|2007

June 23–Sept 02, 2007
Wolfgang von Kempelen.
Mensch-[in der]-Maschine

ZKM | Media Museum
Exhibition: June 23–Sept 02, 2007
Opening: June 22, 2007, 7pm
ZKM_Entrance hall

Information auf Deutsch

Unfortunately, the chess tournanement scheduled for July 22nd will not take place. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Throughout time, the animated image and the autonomously moving, intelligent machine have been both a source of magnetism and a vision of horror. For over two hundred years, no machine has triggered as much amazement and doubt, both in the circles of amateurs as well as scientists, as the chess-playing automaton built by Wolfgang von Kempelen (1734–1804). The Schachautomat, an amazing work with great significance in technical history as well as an incubator of utopian ideas, with which Kempelen duped the royal house of Karlsruhe in 1785, was also a slap in the face and a parody. The secret of the machine that supposedly possessed artificial intelligence was later discovered to be a human hidden within it. An entire era’s belief in progress was put to the test.

Taking the chess automaton as its point of departure, the joint exhibition by Budapest’s C³ foundation and ZKM | Karlsruhe, expands the image of Kempelen, the scientist, engineer, artist, actor, state official, and private person, by exploring the mechanical inventions of his epoch.

The exhibition at ZKM focuses on current artistic productions dealing with the metaphor laid out by Kempelen’s machine. The theme of the human machine can be found in the works of numerous contemporary artists. From the mechanical automaton to robots and modern computers, the exhibition shows the variants of the chess automaton from the eighteenth century to the present day. In their works, the twenty participating artists probe the theoretical implications and continued effects of Kempelen’s automaton in a contemporary context. In this way, they offer a contribution to the understanding of our world and the questions relevant to us.

One of the most important points here is certainly whether the presentation of an intelligent machine is not a contradiction in itself. The ideas of "artificial intelligence" that replace the human with the machine set this questioning process in motion. If there is in fact a human in every machine, as with Kempelen’s chess automaton, then humans can also be destroyed by the superiority of the machinery that they have set in motion.

Participating artists:
Ralf Baecker, Zoe Beloff, Kim Deitch, Harun Farocki, Ken Feingold, Péter Forgács, György Jovánovics, Herbert Kitzel, Gergely Kovács / Bence Samu, Gergely László / Péter Rákosi, M+M, János Major, Daria Martin, John Miller / Frank Lutz, David Moises / Severin Hofmann, Gyula Pauer, Wolf Pehlke, Simon Penny, Martin Riches, robotlab, Alexei Shulgin, Zoltán Szegedy-Maszák mit Róbert Langh, Márton Fernezelyi und Richard Aczel, Katrin von Maltzahn, Tamás Waliczky, Georg Winter / Michael Markert

Curated by József Mélyi, Bernhard Serexhe, and Rita Kálmán
Curatorial assistant: Barbara Kirschner

Guided tours: Sun 1 pm

Further locations and dates of the exhibition:
Mücsarnok / Kunsthalle, Budapest, March 24– May 28, 2007

This project is part of the collaboration Bipolar deutsch-ungarische Kulturprojekte und Ungarischer Akzent (Bipolar German-Hungarian cultural projects and Hungarian accent). »Bipolar« is an initiative of the German Federal Cultural Foundation (Kulturstiftung des Bundes).


[1] Der Schachautomaten von Wolfgang von Kempelen
Rekonstruktion von John Gaughan, 1989
Foto: John Gaughan
Credits: John Gaughan

[2] Ken Feingold
»Box of Men«, 2007
Computer Installation
Foto: Ken Feingold
Credits: Ken Feingold

[3] Severin Hofmann, David Moises
»Turing Train Terminal«, 2004
Interaktive Installation
Foto: Severin Hofmann
Credits: Severin Hofmann, David Moises

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