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Lawrence Abu Hamdan On Why He Is Not A Robot

‘I Am Not A Robot’- the theme for the 12th edition of The Global Art Forum, focuses on power, paranoia, and the potentials of automation. Ahead of the transdisciplinary summit, the Art Dubai Blog explores the implications of automation, through the words and thoughts of some of this year’s contributors.


Lawrence Abu Hamdan is an artist, “private ear” and fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at the New School, New York. His projects have taken the form of audiovisual installations, performances, graphic works, photography, Islamic sermons, cassette tape compositions, potato chip packets, essays, and lectures. Abu Hamdan’s interest in sound and its intersection with politics originate from his background in DIY music.

Abu Hamdan’s audio analyses have been used for legal investigations at various organizations. The artist’s forensic audio investigations are conducted as part of his research for Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths College London where he is also a PhD candidate.

1.  What aspects of the automated future excite you? What aspects worry or scare you?

The emancipation of a technological imagination from capitalism. That it won’t happen.

2. Robots today are capable of contributing to the economy as much- if not more- than their human counterparts. Should robots be given the same rights, and be held to the same societal obligations as we are?

My uncertainty here leads me to answer this question in the form of a contemporary fable of late capitalism. When Warner Brothers corporation turned Tupac into a hologram: It is widely believed contrary to the belief that Biggie killed Tupac, that death row records, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers ordered the hit. The motive being an ongoing dispute in the delayed payment to Tupac of millions in as yet unpaid royalties. Many years later Warner Brothers automated Tupac into a holographic image and toured it as a live show making millions out of his dead body yet again. Warner Brothers, like all corporations, is considered a legal person with the same rights, both human and civic, that you or I are afforded but the holographic image of Tupac is not.

3. What would your robot-clone name be?

The name would be Lawrence Abu Hamdan, cos it’s a clone innit.

4. Why are you not a robot?

Though I have been programmed to perceive images and sounds and smells and tastes according to a specific protocol, I am prone to a bad temper and bouts of irrational behaviour.

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