EXPLORING ROBOTIC AND ORGANIC ECOSYSTEMS AT ROBOTIS PERSONAE
As technology and robotics pop up more and more in our lives, we all have questions and thoughts about these “fake” forms of life. Eastern Bloc, Montréal (Canada)’s center for new media & interdisciplinary art, felt it was time to offer a reflection on these questions and the profound nature of interactions that are taking place within today’s collective spirit, in which technological objects are increasingly important. Their exhibition, Robotis Personae, which opens tonight, invites you to explore robotic and organic ecosystems.
Since 2007, Eastern Bloc has been pushing the creative boundaries of art, technology, and science. Creative director and curator Eliane Ellbogen feels people are starting to see beyond blinking LED lights when it comes to robotics, so in this new exhibition she wanted to cast aside the simple, one-dimensional reading of the technical. For Robotis Personae, she put together two installations; Vessels by Sofian Audry, Samuel St-Aubin & Stephen Kelly, and Humo, Leche y Miel (Smoke, Milk and Honey) by Beatriz Herrera.
TWO DIFFERENT TAKES ON ROBOTICS
Artist Beatriz Herrera feels that these projects show “two completely different takes on robotics.” The robots in Vessels, that are more technological in their appearance, move around on water, collecting data about their environment. The robots interact closely with each one modifying its actions in response to the others. Smoke, Milk and Honey is a kinetic installation made up of robots with sculptural aspects, a mechanical and organic harmony of sorts. It is uncharacteristically voluminous, uneven, and coarse. Herrera wants to show that technique may not only be likened with efficiency, productivity or even progress, but should be seen from different perspectives, and as routinely part of a lived experience.
ASSESSMENT OF THE ROBOT
The two works, which are visually different, highlight the special and particular nature and aesthetic of each, and show that they can also match and work together. We asked both curator Eliane Ellbogen and artist Beatriz Herrera about the exhibition and about human-robot relations.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE THIS EXHIBITION WILL BRING TO ITS AUDIENCE?
EE: Robotic works don’t get much exposure in the field of contemporary visual art. And when they do, my impression of the audience’s perception is either a lack of comprehension or the work is interpreted as playful. As if, by default, since it’s kinetic, it’s expected to be interacted with in a light, offhand manner. I was intent on presenting these works in earnest, with integrity. I wanted to present them in a framework that was adapted to the conceptual and technical needs of the works themselves – to create a neutral context. Unique works within the larger milieu of digital and contemporary visual culture.
BH: I always hope for a way of working and showing people something very immediate, very clumsy, and beautiful. I came into trying to understand robotics knowing nothing, and finding technology as oppressive: another armored skin between our sensual selves and the world. And of course, now this is what fascinates me; how people can hack in and manipulate all the manifestations of robots.
HOW DO YOU LOOK AT HUMAN-ROBOT RELATIONS?
EE: Robots are here, and they will continue to be of increasing importance, not just to a technological elite, but soon (sooner than we think) to people like you and me. In any case, robots (or bots) control such a large part of our use of and consumer behavior on the Internet. These creatures are unavoidable, really. Maybe what I’m more interested in is how we will negotiate our assessment, our experience of the robot.
BH: I watched the original 1954 Godzilla recently and it blew my mind; a myth about something people couldn’t quite grapple with directly. In the same way, I keep seeing robots as a physical lighting rod for all sorts of neurotic actions or interventions into our world right now. I’m not sure we can predict playfulness or artifice, or where formalized constraints can lead, but sometimes I’ll look at yet another silly dress that lights up in response to brain activity, and wonder what else is hovering beneath our skins trying to scream? I love that these aren’t just invisible control algorithms, though it incorporates them. Robots align to the parameters of our bodies and aren’t human at all but speak to being human.
Robotis Personae is on display at Eastern Bloc from January 22nd till February 11th, 2015.
credits photo’s Smoke, Milk and Honey : Ian Woo