Asa Simon Mittman deposited “Of Wood and Bone: Crafting Living Things,” Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural, Volume 4, Number 1, 2015, pp. 110-124 in the group Medieval Art on Humanities Commons 3 years, 6 months ago
This conclusion attempts to reconsider the notion of animation, raised throughout the special issue of Preternature. It uses a remarkable sixteenth-century clockwork automaton friar to test the limits of mechanical animation in the medieval and remodern periods. This figure, traditionally ascribed to Juanelo Turriano, mechanician to Emperor Charles V, walks independently, moves its arms and head, rolls its eyes about, and mouths silent words. It beats itself with a stone and raises a cross. The work is compared to those discussed in the collection, to additional automata, and to other conceptual creatures”—that is, beings created by humans. The conclusion considers the crafting of lifelike corpses, animatable bodies, robots, and the notions of sound and breath. These premodern works are put in dialog with Mary Shelley’s modern Frankenstein (1831) and Michael Landy’s postmodern “Saints Alive” exhibition of kinetic sculptures, based on works in the collection of the National Gallery, London (2013). The essay concludes with a brief discussion of the role of thing theory and object-oriented ontology in current discourse, and the implications these works have for the deployment of these theories in premodern studies.
keywords: animation; automaton; breath; clockwork friar; Juanelo Turriano; robots