COMBATscience Augmented II, 2022

Mixed reality installation
Dimensions variable
HoloLens (version 2), holder; virtual architecture, moving image, virtual objects, sound

In collaboration with Patricia Köstring
Technology architect: Thomas Hochwallner; Support programming: Johannes Hucek; Scan and recording techniques, sound: Thomas Hochwallner, Norbert Unfug, Gabriel Schönangerer
Actors: Therese Cafasso, Randall Galera, Brook Hall, Thomas Kamper, Maria Schuchter

COMBATscience Augmented II is a mixed reality installation that critically reflects on science and its ethical implications, beginning with the gas attacks in World War I and continuing to contemporary research on autonomous weapon systems. Users move freely within the exhibition space wearing HoloLens data goggles. Within a site-specific virtual architecture,digital holographic scenarios unfold amidst the real environment.

The main element is the series of eight monologues performed by actors. Viewers activate the respective video sequences with a hand gesture, and the protagonists - like life-size moving holograms - seem to turn towards the viewer while reciting their text. 3D text elements and sound spots anchored in the digital scan of the real space complement the virtual environment.

Since 2008, Ruth Schnell has developed a series of multimedia environments under the title COMBATscience. Based on the life stories of the German scientist and inventor of German gas warfare, Fritz Haber (1868-1934), and his wife, the chemist and pacifist Clara Immerwahr (1870-1915), these works discuss fundamental contemporary issues of scientific ethics, feminism and the situating of scientific responsibility between feasibility thinking and research ethics.

For COMBATscience Augmented II, original quotes from the two scientists are juxtaposed with statements from contemporary protagonists who bring to light implications and consequences of Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWs). The piece highlights how little the argument of an "increase in efficiency" in war, used by proponents of modernizing weapons systems, has changed since 100 years ago. But primarily, it points to the fatal effects that new and emerging technologies have on armed conflicts, a side which hardly plays a role in current political or social debates on these technologies' usage. COMBATscience Augmented II shows how the autonomy of weapon systems, as well as the supposed virtualization of war that accompanies it, touches on fundamental legal, ethical, and security issues.

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2022, 14 Bienal de la Habana – Experience 3: A Return to What Lies Ahead, Centro Wilfredo Lam, Havana (CU)