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Robotic Bees, Insect Bots, and Robotic Cats, Oh My!: Assembling Robotic Animal Agents

Event Type
Center for Advanced Study and Department of Theatre
Levis Faculty Center, Room 210 (919 W. Illinois St., Urbana)
Jun 27, 2024   2:30 pm  
Jennifer Parker-Starbuck
Originating Calendar
Campus Humanities Calendar

This talk illustrates the development of several types of robotic animal and insect ‘agents,’ from animal drones and ‘spys’ to artistic robotic/cyborgean animal installations. The aim is to begin to discern cases in which a possible animal ‘agency’ might provoke a rethinking of the human-technological-nonhuman-animal relationship and to think about how theatre and performance can be a staging ground for expanded inter-relationships between these elements. Building on her work around cyborgs and nonhuman ‘others’, Professor Parker-Starbuck turns to forms of animal to examine how the human and the nonhuman relate, interact, and increasingly rely upon each other. Working through three different layers of animal mechanization—mimetic appropriation in automata and robotic forms; biomimetic participation in learning processes; and collaborative co-design in artistic practices—this talk examines these species-crossings to consider how sites from art and performance to science and medical—can be generative for bringing the nonhuman, technological, animal, into a more collective ‘association’ that offers room for nonhuman animal agency.


Drama, Theatre & Dance
University of London

Dr. Jennifer Parker-Starbuck is the author of Cyborg Theatre: Corporeal/Technological Intersections in Multimedia Performance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, paperback 2014), Performance and Media: Taxonomies for a Changing Field (co-authored with S. Bay-Cheng and D. Saltz, University of Michigan Press, 2015), and co-editor of Performing Animality: Animals in Performance Practices, (Palgrave, 2015). Her "Animal Ontologies and Media Representations: Robotics, Puppets, and the Real of War Horse" (Theatre Journal, Vol. 65, Number 3, October 2013) received the ATHE 2014 Outstanding Article award.

Her essays and reviews have appeared in Theatre JournalPAJWomen and PerformanceTheatre TopicsInternational Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, The Journal of Dramatic Theory and CriticismWestern European Stages, and others. She is a contributing editor for PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, and an Advisory Board member of Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture. Parker-Starbuck currently serves as the co-Editor of Theatre Journal.

Her work has focused upon the historical and theoretical implications of new media/multimedia and its relationship to the body in performance. This work with multimedia has expanded to include work on cyborg performance, trauma and memory in performance, dis/ability in performance, feminism, live art practices, and animality and the non-human. She has studied avant-garde and experimental theatre in both theory and practice and has a degree from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, where she attended the Experimental Theatre Wing and the Directing Programme. She is also interested in practices and applications of contemporary acting, directing, and theatre-making as well as contemporary American and European performance.

This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Theatre

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