This Machine Kills Fascists

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This project is being developed in collaboration with artists Ashley Pigford and Troy Richards. Inspired by a statement written on Woody Guthrie’s guitar, This Machine Kills Fascists (TMKF) is a guitar-playing robot that performs traditional American folk music on a portable stage. Sheet music with the song lyrics are printed and left on the benches set up in front of the stage and audience members are encouraged to sing along to the music.

How can we come together in ways that express a shared experience of community and mutual sympathy? Our music, much like our lived experience, is filtered through technology and is often isolating. TMKF presents a kind of homespun spectacle that can draw the attention of a skeptical public and entice them to come together and learn/sing these songs that are woven into our collective DNA.

TMKF is both high-tech and low-tech, combining the analog tradition of folk music and digital technology of robotics. Our project is inherently positive and seeks to bring people together through music. It uses a strategy of generating empathy and goodwill with an artificial intelligence to make us ask questions of the kind of community we may or may not be making with actual humans. With TMKF we hope to create a compelling experience that starts conversations.

TMKF is scheduled has been exhibited as part of  the Visiting Artist Lecture Series at the gallery at Illinois State University, Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science, Faculty X in the gallery at Old College at the University of Delaware, the Holiday Hackshop at Eyebeam in NYC, and is scheduled for exhibitions in 2017 at the University of Arizona, Bowling Green State University, and OCAD.

Funding for this project came from a General University Research Grant to PI Troy Richards and was made possible with support from the following students: Jennifer Koffenberger, Brett Smith, Brendan Picciotti, Matt Stevens, Chris Faircloth, Brian Bell, Russel Davis, and Jason Stevens. The Design Studio within the Mechanical Engineering department at UD also played a major role in enabling the development of the project.

Early TMKF Test from Troy Richards on Vimeo.

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