Past Event

Mysticism and Machinery: Two Early Automata

May 30, 2021
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Event Description 

Elizabeth King spent her time at Cassilhaus working on a book about a sixteenth-century automaton, popularly known as "the monk," in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution. The small lifelike wooden figure, animated by hidden iron clockwork, once performed for spectators on any tabletop: it walked and turned along a non-repeating path, beating its chest and flourishing a cross; head and eyes pivoting to gaze at the cross, then the onlookers. Mouth opening and closing as if in speech, the monk periodically raises the cross and kisses it. Elizabeth traveled to Munich in early 2020 to view a similar automaton at the Deutsches Museum, also called a monk. She met with Thomas Rebényi at the museum, who had just made a series of close-up videos of that automaton in motion. Both of these early "robots" are still in working condition after 450 years, but the Deutsches Museum monk performs a more mysterious set of actions. King and Rebényi will introduce the two automata with video footage of each one in performance, and discuss their significance in the history of artificial life. 

Event Speakers

  • Elizabeth King, sculptor
  • Thomas Rebényi, Head of the Restoration Laboratory for Scientific Instruments and Clocks at the Deutsches Museum

Event Information

Free and open to the public; reservations required. Please email [email protected] to RSVP. 

Hoosted by Cassilhaus