Originally published in Convergence, Spring 2001, Volume 7, N. 1, 87-111
Robotic Art Chronology
Title: Remote-control painting
Author: Akira Kanayama
Description: Four-wheeled remote-control device employed to create a mixed-media painting on vinyl
Commentary: Gutai artist Akira Kanayama developed the electro-mechanical process that enabled him to create this 71 x 109 1/4 inch painting. He originally presented it in the context of the “First Gutai Indoor Exhibition”, October 1955, in Tokyo. Gestural in its visual appearance, the painting emphasized the role of the electro-mechanical device in detaching the hand of the artist from the work.
Title: CYSP 1 (Cybernetic Spatiodynamic Sculpture)
Author: Nicolas Schöffer
Description: Kinetic sculpture fixed to a base and built with color sensors and electronic analogue components
Commentary: This pioneering interactive work produced different kinds of movements in response to the presence of observers. Schöffer’s work provided a bridge between kinetics and robotics.
Title: Robot K-456
Authors: Nam June Paik and Shuya Abe
Description: 20-channel remote-controlled anthropomorphic robot
Commentary: Named after Mozart’s piano concerto (Köchel’s number 456), the robot first performed in a private space (Robot Opera, at Judson Hall, in collaboration with Charlotte Moorman) and on the streets, both as part of the Second Annual New York Avant-Garde Festival. As Paik guided it through the streets, K-456 played a recording of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address and excreted beans. K-456 is now in the Hauser and Wirth private collection, in Zürich.
Author: Tom Shannon
Description: Cybernetic system wiring a live plant to a robotic sculpture
Comment: In this early form of cybernetic interactive art, Shannon enabled the electric potential of the human body to trigger an organic switch. When viewers touched the plant, the electricity was amplified and turned on the motors of the robotic sculpture, which then moved. On human-plant contact, Squat retracted and extended its three legs as well as its two arms, creating undulating motion and humming and chirping sounds. If the viewer touched the plant again, the piece returned to its resting state.
Authors: Lev Nusberg and the ‘Movement’ Group
Description: A 20 m2 complex of kinetic “cyber-creatures”, mostly 130 X 80 cm
Commentary: Members of the Russian ‘Movement’ Group built in St. Petersburg (then, Leningrad) cyber-creatures, or “cybers”, which had five to six degrees of freedom. In this theater of artificial creatures, the actors were capable of controlling the color and intensity of the lights, as well as sounds and smells. A color film was planned by the “Movement” Group. A much bigger and more complex programmed “Cybertheater” was also projected.
Title: Toy-Pet Plexi-Ball
Authors: Robin Parkinson and Eric Martin
Description: Viewer-responsive rolling furry sphere with diameter of eleven inches.
Commentary: This mobile robotic piece had three eyes and one ear. Exhibiting peculiar behavior, this furry round creature rolled towards a noise-making viewer, only to stop when the sound paused. More noise was responded with rolls toward the source. At this point the toy-pet rolled in the opposite direction if the viewer continued making more sounds. If it rolled towards another object, it eventually moved in one of two possible directions. The furry sphere rolled in one of three possible directions if the viewer blocked the light. The only way to make it dormant was to cover its body entirely.
Authors: Nicholas Negroponte and the Architecture Machine Group, MIT
Description: Computer-controlled environment with gerbils and blocks rearranged by a robotic arm
Commentary: Originally shown at the Software exhibition, curated by Jack Burnham for the Jewish Museum, in New York, in 1970, this piece consisted of a Plexiglass environment full of small blocks and inhabited by gerbils, who continuously changed the position of the blocks. Following instructions programmed by the authors, the robotic arm automatically rearranged the blocks in a specific pattern.
Title: The Senster (1969-1971)
Author: Edward Ihnatowicz (1926-1988)
Description: Biomorphic computer-controlled robotic creature with shy behavior
Commentary: Built after the articulation of a lobster’s claw, the Senster was about 15 feet long by 8 feet high and occupied a space of 1,000 cubic feet. Its head had sensitive microphones and motion-detectors, providing sensorial input that was processed by a digital Philips minicomputer in real time. The Senster’s upper body consisted of six independent electro-hydraulic servo-mechanisms with six degrees of freedom. Responding to motions and sounds within one or two seconds, the Senster gently moved its head towards quieter and more subtle viewers. Loud and agitated viewers saw the creature shy away and protect itself from any harm.
Title: Telephysical Phone System
Author: Thomas Shannon
Description: Force-feedback system implemented on a pair of altered telephone handsets
Commentary: This system was initially conceived in 1969 by the artist, who filed a patent request with the U.S. Patent office in 1972. The patent was granted in 1973. In its first version, it consisted of a pressure sleeve wrapped around the telephone hand set. This grip attachment responded to pressure and volume variations created by the gripping action of a remote interlocutor. In a later version, the pressure sleeve was replaced by short cylindrical red buttons mounted directly onto the handset. When one person pressed the button in, the other person’s button pressed out with proportional force and vice-versa.
Author: Norman White
Description: Installation with five light-scanning robots
Commentary: This installation was comprised of four robots moving back and forth along separate ceiling tracks and a fifth robot positioned on the floor. Each creature had a scanner (which pointed itself toward strong light-sources) and a spotlight mounted at its center. As a result of the central position of their own light source, the ceiling robots had the tendency to keep staring at one another. However, despite the apparent simplicity of this arrangement, a more dynamic behavior emerged once their motors pulled them apart and the gaze-locking interplay resumed.
Title: Facing Out Laying Low, or FOLL
Author: Norman White
Description: Computer-controlled robot that responded to changes in light patterns in the environment with trilling sounds
Commentary: FOLL rotated itself on a vertical axis, and moved a light-sensing scanner on a horizontal axis. It learned the ambient light patterns of the space in which it was placed and looked for substantial deviations in those patterns. If an area previously active became consistently inactive, it was gradually forgotten. FOLL’s responses to environmental light fluctuations were expressed as motion and sound. The trilling sounds it made reflected its level of stimulation and excitement. The robot’s behavior was generated by a program (running on a Motorola D-1 computer) that decided what to do next based on changes in the environment. Combining present and past experience, FOLL’s activity was highly unpredictable.
Author: Mark Pauline
Title: Machine Sex
Description: Performance that culminated in beheading frozen pigeons
Commentary: Taking place in a gas station, this was the first of an ongoing series of machine performances created by Mark Pauline. Seven pigeons were frozen and dressed in Arab doll costumes. Against a background of very loud music, they were rolled along on a conveyor belt and dropped into a drum where they met a sharp razor blade. Once beheaded, their remains were spilled on the ground. This performance was inspired on a passage in Camus’ The Stranger. While not properly ‘robotic’, this work explored a Frankensteinian integration of animal carcasses and machine.
Title: Survival Research Laboratories, or SRL
Founders: Mark Pauline, Matthew Heckert, and Eric Werner
Description: Collaborative team that since 1980 created multiple-machine performances combining music, explosives, radio-controlled mechanisms, violent and destructive action, fire, liquids, animal parts, and organic materials
Commentary: In the sixteen-plus years that stand between its foundation and the present, SRL developed machines and robots, and staged performances in Europe and the US, all too numerous and varied to be fully covered here. These works are marked by visceral violence and entropic choreography, often culminating in a cathartic self-destructive extravaganza. These robotic spectacles of discomfort, fear, and actual destruction are meant as commentaries on social issues, particularly in regard to ideological control, abuse of force, and technological domination. No longer composed of its original members, SRL is directed by Mark Pauline.
Titles: Piggly-Wiggly and Rabot
Author: Mark Pauline
Description: Mechanically animated dead animals
Commentary: In collaboration with Monte Cazzaza, Mark Pauline developed Piggly-Wiggly by combining motors, metallic structure, pig’s feet, pig hide, and a cow’s head. This creature trembled, giving the impression that it was very sick or wounded. Pauline made the Rabot by grafting a mechanical exoskeleton to the entire body of a dead rabbit, causing it to walk backwards.
Title: Third Hand
Author: Stelarc, with assistance of Imasen Denki, and based on a prototype by Ichiro Kato
Description: Five-finger robotic hand activated by abdominal and leg muscles
Commentary: Among Stelarc’s first robotic performances in 1981 were The Third Hand (Tamura Gallery, Tokyo) and Deca-Dance (Komai Gallery, Tokyo). In The Third Hand event, the artist explored the possibility of writing THE THIRD HAND simultaneously with his right hand and his third hand. In Deca-Dance, he experimented with human and robotic choreographic gestures. Since 1981 Stelarc has been creating amplified body performances in which he expands the power and reach of the human body by wiring it to electronic devices and telecommunications systems. In these performances he has combined the Third Hand with many other technological components, including sensing devices conventionally used in medicine. On occasion Stelarc has also performed in the company of industrial robotic arms. More recently he has also used prosthetic technologies that enable remote and direct muscle stimulation, which result in involuntary gestures and body motions uncontrollable by the artist.
Title: Ballet Robotique
Director: Bob Rogers
Description: Color film (Sound, 16mm, 8 min.) of dancing industrial robots
Commentary: Very large industrial robots on an automobile assembly line were programmed to dance specially for this film, which was synchronized to music recorded by London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Each robot was programmed in a different way, suggesting an interaction of multiple robotic personalities. Borrowing from animal and plant motion, the filmmakers had the robots programmed as a chicken, a cat, and a swaying and curling seaweed, for example. The cinematographer was Reed Smoot and the editor was Marshall Harvey. The title “Ballet Robotique” echoes Fernand Leger’s classic avant-guarde film “Ballet Mechanique”, from 1924.
Title: The First Catastrophe of the Twenty-First Century
Author: Nam June Paik
Description: Staged accident in which the Robot K-456 was hit by a car
Commentary: For this performance, K-456 was removed from its pedestal at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which hosted Paik’s retrospective exhibition, and guided by the artist down the street to the intersection of 75th Street and Madison Avenue. When crossing the avenue, the robot was “accidentally” hit by an automobile driven by artist Bill Anastasi. With this performance Paik suggested the potential problems that arise when technologies collide out of human control. After the “collision”, K-456 was returned to its pedestal in the Museum.
Title: Electronic Garden #2
Author: James Seawright
Description: Five computer-controlled robotic flowers
Commentary: Responding to climate parameters, such as temperature and humidity, these computer-controlled flowers were originally installed in a public space as an indoor garden. Viewers could also alter their behavior by pushing buttons that modified the program installed in the custom-built microprocessor. These electronic flowers suggest the possibility of a harmonious integration between humans, nature and technology, at the same time that they poeticize responsive electronics in analogy with ornamental plants.
Title: House Plants
Author: James Seawright
Description: Two computer-controlled robotic flowers
Commentary: Cybernetic botany is a theme that has been explored by the artist in multiple pieces and in different versions of single pieces. House Plants used a computer (a custom-built microprocessor) to give the electronic plants their environmentally-responsive behavior. While the taller plant opened its four petals at night reacting to changing light levels, the shorter, domed plant produced a peculiar sound pattern as small disks opened and closed. Both plants displayed dynamic blinking light patterns: the taller one on the inside of the petals (made visible when opened), and the shorter one on the surface of its spherical top. If placed in a gallery setting, both plants were programmed to exhibit their behavior simultaneously.
Title: Robotic Performance
Author: Eduardo Kac
Description: Dialogical performance between a radio-controlled robot and a human performer
Commentary: Presented publicly in the context of a survey of electronic art in Brazil, the Brasil High Tech exhibition, at Galeria Centro Empresarial Rio, in Rio de Janeiro, this performance united a radio-controlled talking robot with a human performer wearing a video monitor on his head. Wearing a black costume that covered his real head, the human performer seemed to have a vertical video monitor as its own head instead. The wireless videocreature spoke through its video mouth. The wireless robot replied in real time, creating an improvised dialogue. The video playing on the human performer’s head was pre-recorded and was transmitted wirelessly. The mobile robot had bi-directional audio transmission and reception, and its responses were performed by a remote human operator. The human performer (videocreature) was Otavio Donasci. The robot operator was Cristovão Batista da Silva.
Authors: Norman White and Doug Back
Title: Telephonic Arm Wrestling
Description: Telecommunications event that provided force feedback via a remote modem connection
Commentary: This work allowed participants in two remote places to arm-wrestle using a motorized custom-built force-feedback system. Information pertaining to the force effected on the electro-mechanical lever was transmitted via a regular telephone modem link to the remote place and vice-versa. It was shown in a link between the Canadian Cultural Center, Paris, and the Artculture Resource Centre, Toronto.
Title: Robot Zoo (Zoo des Robots)
Curators: The exhibition was organized by staff members of the Cité des Sciences et de L’Industrie. “Bon Robot” was selected by Gerald Gassiot-Talabot, Pontus Hultén, Jean-Hubert Martin, and Claude-Louis Renard.
Description: Exhibition at Cité des Sciences et de L’Industrie de La Villette, Paris
Commentary: In the area dedicated to “Matter and Human Labor” at the Cité des Sciences et de L’Industrie de La Villette, a robotic zoo was installed from 1986 to 1991. It included, among other works, two interactive theatrical computer-controlled automata scenes by animatronics designer Bernard Szajner: “La chouette et le robot” (The Owl and the Robot) and “Petit Nicolas”. An international competition for a robotic art work that would serve as a “beacon” for the area was held and was won by Gilles Roussi. Roussi’s work, “Bon Robot” (Good Robot), a stationary piece with no moving parts which responds to the presence of viewers with flashing lights, is the only one which remains on display to this date.
Title: Desert Crawler
Author: Joe Davis
Description: Solar-powered robot that roamed freely
Commentary: This work was originally presented in the context of the 1986 Sky Art Conference, organized by MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies on the Alabama Hills and Owens Valley, in California. While moving several feet every day, Desert Crawler also drew a line in the sand. As the robot crawled around drawing energy from the Sun, it suggested future interplanetary robotic art works.
Title: Mars Suite
Author: Margo K. Apostolos
Description: Choreography for human dancers and two industrial robots
Commentary: In this piece, members of the University of Southern California Dance Theater performed with two industrial robots: the U.S. Maker 110 and the Unimation Puma 560.
Title: Talos and Koïné
Author: Jean-Marc Matos
Description: Choreography for human dancers and robot
Commentary: Created and directed by French-American dancer Jean-Marc Matos, this piece was premiered at the Acropolis, in Nice, France. It involved four human dancers and the robot Talos — built by Christian Laroche, from the Institut National des Sciences Appliqués, Tolouse, France. Laroche built Talos specifically for the piece following guidelines by Matos. Talos was able to draw lines in space, move at different speeds, turn around, and have its metal sticks move. On occasion it looked like a flower; it could also stay still or vibrate in various ways. During the dance, the pre-programmed movement sequences of the robot were triggered from a command box outside the stage. The name of the robot, “Talos”, is a reference to an animated statue of Greek mythology. The mythological Talos was the artificial bull-headed man of bronze who protected Crete for King Minos. “Koïné” makes reference to ordinary language.
Title: Helpless Robot, or HLR
Author: Norman White
Description: Robot that converses with viewers and requests their assistance to spin it, changing its behavior in time if it gets more or less help
Commentary: Norman White considers the Helpless Robot unfinished (possibly unfinishable), and since 1985 he has modified it many times. HLR was shown publicly for the first time in 1988. In its current state (1997), it is controlled by two cooperating computers, both programmed by White. One computer is responsible for tracking the angular position of the rotating section, and detecting human presence with an array of infrared motion detectors. The other computer analyzes this information in relation to past events, and generates an appropriate speech response. This work humorously reverses the polarity of robot-human relationships, asking humans to help an electronic creature conventionally designed to be a human aid.
Title: Life in Quick Basic
Author: Roland Brener
Description: Free standing, two-legged construction supporting two small moving robots
Commentary: This piece makes reference to the dynamic behavior of the two small robots and to the programming language used in assigning them such behavior. A short elevated rail, supported by two vertical legs, serves as the unidimensional path for the activity of the two robots. Following seven routines, the robots move either independently or in response to one another. Two computers are used in the work, one for each robot.
Authors: Eduardo Kac and Ed Bennett
Description: Fully mobile and wireless telepresence robot (telerobot) controlled from a geographically remote place
Commentary: Soon after the Robotic Performance of 1986, Kac wrote a yet unpublished essay on robotic art and drew sketches for a telerobotic art work. It wasn’t until 1989 that, in collaboration with Ed Bennett, this work could be realized. Built from scratch, the telerobot Ornitorrinco (Platypus, in Portuguese), in one place, was controlled by a remote participant, in another place, via a regular telephone line. The telephone keypad was transformed into a Cartesian coordinate grid: if key number 2 was pressed, Ornitorrinco moved forward; keys 1, 4, and 7 turned it to the left; keys 3, 6 and 9 turned it to the right; key 5 stopped it; and key 8 moved it backwards. Key combinations allowed remote participants to navigate the space and negotiate obstacles, as well as push objects in the remote space. Skid steering enabled Ornitorrinco to turn a complete 360 degrees in place. Participants controlled Ornitorrinco in the remote space and received audio feedback, both in real time. Visual feedback was achieved as sequential video stills. Both control and audiovisual feedback were realized on a single telephone phone line
Title: Robot Group
Founders: Gil Andrade, Harry Bolch, Linda Brown, Brooks Coleman, Bill Craig, Glenn Currie, Mark Dommers, David Hutchings, Alex Iles, Vadim Konradi, John Lovgren, Joe Perez, Karen Pittman, Craig Sainsott, Charlene Sainsott, David Santos, Tim Sheridan, John Witham.
Description: Group of artists and engineers
Commentary: Since 1989, the Robot Group has produced more than forty works. At times these works and events have educational or entertainment goals, and at times they emphasize artistic or novel technical approaches. The Robot Group claims not to discern between these goals. Also since 1989, they have organized the annual event “RoboFest” which, in their own words, allows the public “to get some personal hands-on experience with the latest in hi-tech art and cyberspace.”
Authors: Ted Krueger and Ken Kaplan
Description: Robot that sensed the presence and location of the public and that reacted with sequencing lights and automotive power antennae
Commentary: Installed at Artpark, Lewiston, New York, this robot was suspended between two cliffs created by the demolition of a tunnel. It could respond in many different ways based on the status of environmental sensors. The infrared motion detectors triggered one of sixteen programmed sequences of activity stored in memory. The artists assigned a specific personality to this robot by manipulating the timing and sequences of activity in order to convey a number of psychological states – arousal, defensiveness, aggression, paranoia, boredom and confusion. The robot’s activity included control of fifteen automatic automotive power antennae, three fog lamps and a number of truck running lights. The on-board computer was driven by an Intel 8052AH microcontroller. Programs written in Basic52 switched power to lighting and antennae in response to input from infrared motion detectors.
Title: Ornitorrinco: Experience 1
Authors: Eduardo Kac and Ed Bennett
Description: International telepresence event between Rio de Janeiro and Chicago
Commentary: This was the first international telepresence piece in the Ornitorrinco project. Eduardo Kac was in Rio de Janeiro and both the telerobot Ornitorrinco and Ed Bennett were in Chicago. From a private residence in Rio de Janeiro, in the company of art critic Reynaldo Röels Jr., a curator at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói, in Rio de Janeiro, Kac used a regular telephone to teleoperate Ornitorrinco at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This work explored the theme of “collision”, as Kac projected the robotic body against architectural elements and physical obstacles in the geographically distant environment. It was as if a more corporeal experience of presence could be communicated by regaining a sense of physicality through the crashing action of the telerobot against objects in the remote space.
Title: Nose Wazoo
Author: Jim Pallas, with Jim Zalewski
Description: Five foot tall computer-controlled responsive electronic creature
Commentary: The Nose Wazoo observes its surroundings with four photocell eyes and an infrared sensor. Controlled by a 6502 microprocessor and employing pneumatic cylinders, it flexes its neck and extend its nose up to twenty inches, trying to nudge visitors. It rocks back and forth, sometimes even flipping over. Its body is covered with sisal fibers, beads and wire.
Title: CyberSqueek series
Authors: Ken Rinaldo
Description: Group of responsive, sound emitting sculptures
Commentary: Through sensors and switches, organic-looking electronic forms emit squawking sounds in response to human touch and changes in environmental light intensity. This piece is a satire of the concept of emergence of machine intelligence, as if the squawking sounds were the first words of their own new language. It also suggests the resulting chaotic activity as an analogy for complex life processes.
Title: Tumbling Man
Authors: Chico MacMurtrie and Rick Sayre
Description: Computer-controlled pneumatic and anthropomorphic robotic performer
Commentary: The Tumbling Man was designed to be controlled by two participants. Each participant wears a telemetry suit and chooses one or more of his or her own limbs which, with the aid of a computer, control different parts of the robot. For example, one participant can use his legs while the other participant uses her arms and neck. Working in cooperation, they can make it tumble, sit up, play its own body as if it were a percussion instrument, and pose in contorted ways. When not controlled by participants, the Tumbling Man uses the motion patterns of previous participants and moves accordingly.
Title: Foreseen Variations
Authors: Artemis Moroni and *.* Group
Description: Installation with industrial robot and video of human dancer; it also included live performances of the robot with two dancers
Commentary: The Brazilian group *.*, headed by Artemis Moroni and formed by artists and engineers, created a robotic dance piece in which dancer Ronaldo Silva performed with a Unimation Puma industrial robot. The group produced a video tape of this work, and incorporated it into an installation that premiered at the XXI Bienal Internacional de São Paulo. The installation combined live robotic motion with video of the human dancer. The objective was to suggest a symbiosis between fluid robotic activity and “automated” electronic images of a human performing. The installation included ten TV sets, one VCR, one video camera, computers, synthesizers, loud-speakers, and a programmable controller running on a PC. During the Bienal, the group also produced a live performance with the Puma robot and two human dancers. Still in 1991, and before the installation for the Bienal, Artemis Moroni and her group *.* also produced other robotic pieces: “The Robot and The Centaur”, in which the robot drew a centaur in space with a lamp in the dark; and choreographs entitled “Slow”, “Cumbica” (the name of São Paulo’s international airport), “Realejo” (Street Organ), and “Baleia” (Whale).
Title: Remote/Obsolete: Event for Scanning Robot, Involuntary Arm and Third Hand
Description: Performance in which the artist, with his third hand, interacted with an industrial robot
Commentary: This performance, realized as part of the Edge Biennale, at Brick Lane Warehouse, London, was part of Stelarc’s ongoing investigation of how the body handles increased information flow and control. In this event, the movements of his body triggered sensors that switched between cameras located above the body, at the end of the industrial robotic arm, and on the artist’s own left hand. The resulting images were projected on a large screen in real time.
Title: Joan, L’home de Carn (Joan, The Meat Man)
Authors: Marcel.li Antúnez Roca and Sergi Jordá
Description: Interactive anthropomorphic robot covered in pigskin
Commentary: Joan is a life-size human figure made of polyester and covered in pigskin patches sown together. Completely naked and anatomically correct, Joan sits on a wooden chair and wears black shoes. He is displayed in a glass and wood case with a microphone mounted at the top of the case. Feedback control via a Macintosh computer allows him to move head and right arm in response to human speech. This piece was shown for the first time in 1992. Its definite version was developed in 1993.
Title: Ornitorrinco in Copacabana
Authors: Eduardo Kac and Ed Bennett
Description: Telepresence installation with the wireless telerobot Ornitorrinco
Commentary: Presented daily in the context of the Siggraph Art Show, at McCormick Place, this work enabled anonymous participants at the exhibition site to navigate a remote installation built to the scale of the telerobot and located miles away at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. Among other elements, the installation included a large mirror that enabled participants to see themselves as the telerobot Ornitorrinco. This piece started a series of Ornitorrinco works in which the issues of remote action, disembodied projection of the subject, and geographic displacement were explored in reconfigured and hybridized communicative contexts. The interface at the exhibition site consisted of a traditional touch-tone telephone and a black-and-white video monitor. The telephone was used for real-time motion control and visual retrieval of sequential video stills. The video monitor displayed the images coming via the telephone line.
Title: Inter Caetera Divina
Authors: Ken Goldberg and Claudia Vera
Description: Live creation of drawings with an industrial robotic arm
Commentary: Also presented at the Siggraph Art Show, in Chicago, this piece was meant as a critique of the map-making process and its implications in the information society. Drawn by the robot on translucent paper, lines were seen against a background of birds and ordinary objects, exposing the arbitrary demarcation imposed by boundary lines over nature.
Author: Stephen Hamper
Description: Interactive industrial robotic arm with gripping manipulators
Commentary: This very large robotic arm was programmed to respond to the presence of viewers in the gallery. The work was shown as part of the Third International Symposium on Electronic Art, in Australia.
Title: Technology Recapitulates Phylogeny
Author: Ken Rinaldo
Description: Group of worms that respond collectively to human touch
Commentary: This piece is activated when the viewer walks by an infrared sensor, turns the light on, and causes the worms to react while projecting their tree patterns onto the ceiling. The light, which remains on while the viewer is in the vicinity, prompts the tubefex worms to work together and act as a single consciousness. They line their bodies up and, if one worm is touched, the whole group contracts. The projected patterns created by the worms are juxtaposed with projected roots, circuit boards, and two human brain cells. Rinaldo suggests with this work that the tree structure is the primordial intelligent form. The title of this installation is a reference to Ernst Haeckel’s proposition: “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” which states that the growth of the fetus in the womb (ontogeny) duplicates certain human evolutionary states (phylogeny). The title of the installation indicates that technology, as it learns from biology and natural systems, is following a similar path.
Title: Power and Water
Author: Ken Goldberg and Margaret Lazzari
Description: Installation combining hand-made paintings and a painting plotter
Commentary: The title of the exhibition made reference to important aspects of Los Angeles history, particularly in relation to water rights disputes, the demise of the St. Francis Dam, and the purchase of the Owens Valley. In the gallery the viewer saw paintings created by Lazzari hanging on the wall, a robotic plotter created by Goldberg holding a paintbrush, making a humming sound and actively painting on the floor, and additional paintings on vinyl banner that resulted from the collaboration of Lazzari and Goldberg’s machine. All images reflected the theme of the installation, and included portraits of personalities as well as transmission poles and hydroelectric diagrams.
Title: Perception: Fast Forward III
Authors: Isabelle Chemin and Guido Hubner
Description: Performance with human and industrial robot
Commentary: Perception: Fast Forward III included three installations and a closing performance. The theme of this work was the interaction between man and machine. The human performer, seen as a shining body with stroboscopic eyes, interacted with an IRB 2000 industrial robot, from ABB Industria. The performance was realized at the CIEJ, in Barcelona, Spain. Chemin and Hubner were assisted by Carlos Jovellar, Ramon Tico i Farré, and Carlas Llorach.
Title: Hollow Body/Host Space: Stomach Sculpture
Description: Site-specific robotic sculpture displayed in the artist’s stomach
Description: Produced for the Fifth Australian Sculpture Triennale, in Melbourne, this piece transformed the artist’s stomach into a public exhibition site. Once in the stomach, the sculpture illuminated itself. It also had additional properties, such as the ability to extend and retract, and emit sound. The Stomach Sculpture was actuated by a servo motor and logic circuit.
Title: Ornitorrinco on the Moon
Authors: Eduardo Kac and Ed Bennett
Description: Telepresence installation between Chicago and Graz, Austria
Commentary: This piece was a link between The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Kunstlerhaus, in Graz. The telerobot Ornitorrinco was in Chicago. A telepresence station was set up and made available to the public in Graz. Exploring the concept of detachment of signifiers from signifieds identified as characteristic of the mediascape, this piece presented remote navigators with no particular lunar motifs. Instead, surprise encounters with unexpected objects revealed, for example, a reproduction of a portrait by Renoir, a large aluminum letter R appropriated from advertising, and a canopy of loud speakers. The various sounds coming down simultaneously from the different speakers also worked as topological markers, since remote participants were able to receive visual as well as localized (as opposed to environmental) audio feedback. Spheres dispersed throughout the Chicago space enabled remote participants to move objects around and, therefore, partially reconfigure the installation.
Title: Winke Winke
Authors: X-Space (Gerfried Stocker and Horst Hörtner, with Arnold Fuchs, Anton Maierhofer, Wolfgang Reinisch and Jutta Schmiederer)
Description: Interactive robotic installation
Commentary: This project makes reference to one of the earliest forms of telecommunications network: the optical telegraph (1794), precursor to the electric telegraph. In a gallery or other public space, the participant approaches a computer terminal connected to a robot placed on the roof of the building. Each message typed on the terminal is translated by the robot into signs of the international marine semaphore system: the robot actually produces these signs by moving the flags attached to its arms. On the roof of another location, in straight line of sight with the robot, a video camera with a telephoto lens records the signs made by Winke Winke. The pictures are fed into a computer, which reads the position of the flags and converts the signs back into words. Digital telecommunications comes full circle with the optical telegraph, suggesting new beginnings. The expression “winke winke” is Austrian baby-language for “bye-bye”.
Title: Hunter Hunter
Author: Chris Csikszentmihalyi
Description: Interactive robot
Commentary: This work employs a sensor-servo loop to identify the location of a load noise, process it through a simple Adeline neural-net to find out if it is a gun shot, and fire back a 9mm bullet in the same direction. Originally shown at the Around the Coyote’s Paulina Robotics Show, in Chicago.
Title: Handle with Care
Author: Susan Collins
Description: Interactive robotic installation
Commentary: This site-specific work was developed for a historic warehouse built in Manchester, United Kingdom, in 1830. Handle with Care consisted of infrared sensors distributed throughout the space, video projections, slide projections, sounds, and a Fanuc industrial robotic arm holding a flashlight. The presence of viewers in the space was detected by the sensors, triggering different sequences of sound, video, and robotic motion. Sensors also instructed slide projectors to fade images in and out, and to project them in sequence for a determined period. Viewer-activated video projections were played back from a laserdisc containing approximately 35 different video sequences, combining animation and analog video. These video images were partially motivated by old stock books found in the warehouse, and included images of animals such as sheeps and pigs. The piece was experienced in different ways according to the number of viewers in the space.
Author: Martin Spanjaard
Description: Spherical and wireless autonomous robot
Commentary: Adelbrecht is a sphere of 40 cm diameter (approximately 16 inches). Inside the robot a motor allows it to roll around, while sensors enable it to detect multiple situations (position, bump, ambient sound level, touch and battery level). These sensors, combined in complex ways, are wired to an internal computer, which gives it a particular personality. Adelbrecht speaks English with a Dutch accent (the author’s own voice), and thus addresses viewers who engage it. Speech and behavior are generated in response both to the environment and the ways in which viewers interact with the robot. Speech and behavior are meaningful but unpredictable. If it gets stuck, it will ask for help. If it is left alone for a while, it will put itself to sleep. If it is petted, it will know and appreciate it. This work was shown publicly in its first version in 1984, in Amsterdam.
Title: The Data Mitt (or Data Dentata)
Authors: Ken Goldberg and Richard S. Wallace
Description: Low-bandwidth force-feedback interactive installation
Commentary: At one installation site, the user places his or her hand in a electromechanical cylindrical receptacle. Inside, the user’s hand touches a squeeze ball that, connected to a direct-drive motor, can receive and transmit via modem one-bit of information. A similar set up is located at a remote site, enabling both users to metaphorically “hold hands” over the phone.
Title: Espace Vectoriel (Vectorial Space)
Authors: Louis-Philippe Demers and Bill Vorn
Description: Robotic installation
Commentary: Espace Vectoriel aims to express complex behavior with eight cylindrical robots (4 feet long and 3 inches wide each), all capable of revolving motion with two degrees of freedom, as well as of production of light and sound. Viewers sharing their space are tracked by eight sonar devices, thus affecting the behavior of the group. Each tubular robot has a servo control system that processes commands from the master computer, continuously evolving complex lighting patterns and directional octaphonic sound textures. Collectively, the robotic units show organic behavior, simulating herd and aggregation comportments. Herd behavior is expressed through erratic and sudden movements aimed at the most crowed area of the installation. Aggregation is visualized through sound and light propagation in a chain reaction, in response to a viewer disruption.
Title: The Flock
Authors: Ken Rinaldo and Mark Grossman
Description: Three independent robots that interact with one another and with the public
Commentary: This work exhibits flocking behavior comparable to the kind found in natural groups that act as one (e.g., birds, fishes). This behavior is based on interdependent interactions between individual members, who must be aware of their position in relation to one another. Telephone tones are used as a positional language, allowing the robots to send and receive messages to one another about the position of the public in relation to them. Their most common reaction is to flock towards the participants, who experience their acoustic and kinetic manifestations. The motors and sensors are connected to a 68010 processor with EPROM-based software. This work explored the concept of emergence, the self-organizing principle of complex systems. In this context, emergence means that when basic needs of the system are satisfied, such as self-preservation achieved by not approaching viewers that are too close, higher behaviors like flocking are allowed to arise. The overall behavior is nonlinear and organic.
Title: The Helpless Robot
Author: Norman White
Description: Modified and updated version of the robot first shown in 1988
Commentary: Norman White has given the current version of the Helpless Robot sixteen software “discriminators”, which combined allow the robot to choose its responses in complex ways. His goal is to enable it to devise its own discriminators, and thus evolve new behaviors that might surprise even White himself. This version of the Helpless Robot (or ‘HLR’) is free-standing, with an overall height of about 6 feet, and a diameter of approximately five feet at its base. There are four handles protruding from its body, which is free to rotate upon its base. The Helpless Robot asks humans to rotate it, and interacts with them in different ways depending on what they do. This behavior gives it a personality unique to itself.
Title: Ornitorrinco in Eden
Authors: Eduardo Kac and Ed Bennett
Description: Networked telepresence installation integrating three American cities and the Internet
Commentary: This work integrated remote participants in Seattle and Lexington, Kentucky, and the telerobot Ornitorrinco, in Chicago, with the Internet. A key aspect of this work was the fact that participants from Seattle and Lexington shared the body of the telerobot simultaneously, which made it clear to them that they had to cooperate with one another in order to navigate the space. This body-sharing situation created a unique form of non-verbal communication between the participants and, unlike the web, provided them with a sense of their mutual presence in a third, virtualized space. Another important aspect of this work is the hybridization of the Internet with other networks and communications devices and systems, some of which custom-built for the piece. Motion control was achieved through a three-way telephone conference call. Video feedback was transmitted live via the Internet, and was seen by participants in many North-American cities and European countries. An installation was created in Chicago with products of old and obsolete technologies, such as broken circuit boards, vinyl records, and reel audio tape. This garden of obsolescence provided remote participants, on the body of Ornitorrinco, with unexpected forms and images.
Title: Senator Pobot Goes to Washington
Author: Graham Smith
Description: Mobile video conferencing system linking Washington and Las Vegas
Commentary: Wilma Pobot was a mobile robot wired to 200 feet of ISDN cable, with a video camera and a monitor mounted on its top. It was controlled from Las Vegas and interacted with street audience in Washington, across the street from the White House. Through its camera, video and audio of pedestrians were transmitted to monitors in Las Vegas, as part of COMDEX ’94. Video of participants in Las Vega appeared on the Pobot’s monitor. For this work, Smith employed a 486 computer with PictureTel software and hardware. In its current version, Wilma Pobot is a wireless commercial product rented by Smith as a promotional tool for trade shows or annual shareholders’ meetings.
Title: The Mercury Project
Authors: Ken Goldberg, Michael Mascha, Steve Gentner, Nick Rothenberg, Carl Sutter, and Jeff Wiegley
Description: Web telerobotics installation
Commentary: This installation enabled viewers to excavate a sand-filled container and discover objects buried in it, such as a lantern and a ticking watch, for example. Through the Web, remote viewers were able to move an industrial robotic arm, raising and lowering it, and activate a compressed-air blower placed at the tip of the arm. By doing so, viewers could remove the sand and emulate archeological excavation. Also through the Web, viewers could receive updated stills that showed them the result of their remote action. This work suggested an analogy between archaeology and searching the WWW to reveal buried information. The buried artifacts were drawn from an unnamed 19th Century text that provided a meta-narrative. When the project was terminated, this text was revealed to be Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth”.
Authors: Marcel.li Antúnez Roca and Sergi Jordá
Description: Performance in which Roca’s body, enveloped in pneumatic devices, is remotely manipulated via a computer by members of the audience
Commentary: In the course of the 30-minute performance Antúnez stands still, gesticulating and moving only in response to audience participation. Members of the public use a computer to activate pneumatic mechanisms attached to two metallic molds fixed to the artist’s body. With these devices the participant moves and temporarily deforms different parts of Roca’s face and body, such as the nose, buttocks, mouth, breasts and ears. The participant can force Roca to produce facial expressions against his own will, for example. He also has a microphone through which his voice is amplified, and two small video cameras. This allows him to capture himself and the public in real time. Antúnez responds to the stimulus he receives through the pneumatic apparatus, by using his voice and the video cameras. At the end of the performance, a gas flame shoots upwards out of the costume’s helmet. Evoking torture sessions but at the same time suggesting a humorous Frankesteinian caricature, this work draws attention to distopic implications of computer technology and human-machine interfaces beyond paradisiacal promises of virtual reality.
Title: CyberSM III
Authors: Kirk Wolford and Stahl Stenslie
Description: Internet installation in which participants are geographically separated and wear electronic components that, upon local touch, vibrate the corresponding areas on the distant participant
Commentary: One participant’s erogenous zones are strapped up with sensor pads which vibrate and are controlled by the actions of another participant at a distant location, who in turn receives the results of the one participant touching him or herself. As both participants touch their own suits, they respectively control intensity and location of these touches on one another. They can also speak to one another. Local computers enhance the participant’s perception of the touch with sight and sound. The objective of the piece was to experience touch sensations in the context of network communications.
Title: Integrated Circuits
Author: Ted Krueger
Description: Two rectangular boxes from which spring twenty-four black rods which respond to one another as much as they respond to the viewer’s presence
Commentary: Shown at the Katonah Museum, Katonah, New York, at the ‘Shelter and Dreams’ exhibition. The overall behavior of these robotic creatures emerges from a combination of the public’s presence, the environment, and the software that controls them. The rods respond by bending gracefully and silently, exhibiting a “social” behavior even though no attempt was made by the artist to program the behavior of the rods as a cohesive group. This graceful response is possible because each rod is tensed by two strands of Shape Memory Alloy wire, which can be easily deformed when cooled and which recovers its original shape when heated above a certain temperature. The processor on each base is an 8-bit Intel 8052AH, and programming was first done in Basic and then converted to C.
Title: Alice Sat Here
Authors: Nina Sobell and Emily Hartzell, in collaboration with New York University Center for Advanced Technology engineers and computer scientists
Description: A camera-equipped wheelchair steered by local and remote participants, with sequential uploads to the Web
Commentary: Sobell and Hartzell worked with New York University engineer and computer scientists to create this telepresence installation, originally shown at Ricco/Maresca Gallery. While local participants were able to sit on and steer Alice’s Throne, remote visitors could control camera direction. A monitor in the gallery’s front window showed real-time video from the point of view of the wheelchair-mounted wireless camera, which was then displayed as sequential stills on the Web. Touchpads in the front window surrounded the monitor. Participants pressing the touchpads were caught in the act of controlling the throne’s camera: their images were captured by the small camera mounted atop the monitor. The throne itself was not controlled remotely, but by people actually driving it around. The small camera mounted on top of the monitor overlapped the street participant’s image with the image captured from the point of view of the wheelchair-mounted camera prior to the Web upload. This piece touched on the multiple levels of control as participants oscillated between physical space and cyberspace.
Title: A Room for Robots (or 2 Minutes of Bliss – Installation)
Authors: VOID Performance (Liz Swift and Peter Ireland)
Description: Interactive theatrical installation
Comment: The piece, shown at at Exeter, United Kingdom, during the South West Arts conference on Art and Technology, confronted the spectator with five robots with whom they could interact by placing and moving objects and shining lights. A video camera relayed a robot’s eyeview of the event to a projector, producing layers of images on gauze in a maze, with several texts on slide and soundtrack, through which the viewer had to move.
Authors: Ken Goldberg, Joseph Santarromana, George Bekey, Steven Gentner, Rosemary Morris, Carl Sutter, Jeff Wiegley
Description: Web telepresence installation
Commentary: The TeleGarden enabled anyone on the Web to plant and water seeds in a real living garden using an industrial robot arm. This garden, 6′ in diameter, soon filled with marigolds, peppers, and petunias. Participants, who became ‘members’ of this virtual cooperative, could also plant seeds, water and discuss coop policy via an online chat system. The project explored the evolution of community on the web, in particular the analogy with the Agrarian revolution which established the conditions for cultural communities.
Title: The FrenchMan Lake
Authors: Louis-Philippe Demers and Bill Vorn
Description: Installation comprised of sixteen submarine interactive robotic units, each composed of a pneumatic actuator, a speaker, a light source, a strobelight and four sensing devices
Commentary: The title of the piece comes from an homonymous desert lake in the Yucca Flat (Nevada, USA), one of the first nuclear test sites. The lake, which stills contains living organisms, remains radioactive to this day. In the space of the installation viewers saw containers, around which they could circulate freely. These containers formed an aquatic environment for this network of robots. The sixteen robotic units responded to viewers but also exhibited collective activity, exploring the metaphor of the emergence of behaviors from primitive robotic organisms. An unit responded by diving or springing out of the water, for example. This reaction triggered other reactions from the neighboring organisms, resulting in either a chaotic or orderly pattern.
Title: At the Edge of Chaos
Authors: Louis-Philippe Demers and Bill Vorn
Description: Installation that emulates animal-like behavior with four machines that seem to fight for a piece of meat
Commentary: The “piece of meat” in this case is a steel cube pushed back and forth by four pneumatic actuators. Although the behavior of the robots was sometimes autonomous, the viewer’s presence also altered it. Eight infrared sensors tracked the audience and triggered sound and light effects, in a cycle that lasted 10 minutes. Unpredictable stimuli from the environment and artificial behaviors embedded in the program gave each cycle a distinct and complex quality.
Title: Where I can see my house from here so we are
Authors: Ken Feingold
Description: Installation with mirrors and three wired robot-puppets, each with a video camera and a microphone
Commentary: Each robotic puppet was connected through the Internet to another space, where its sound and sight were shared with remote participants. A wire running to the ceiling connected each puppet to this remote site. Remote participants could steer the puppets in a mirrored environment and when they spoke on a microphone their voices were heard in the installation space, activating the puppet’s mouth as well. Each puppet was circumscribed to its own physical limits. The mirrors were high enough that the puppets could not see over them. This work was originally shown at the Interactive Media Festival, Los Angeles.
Title: Telepresent Surveillance
Author: Joel Slayton
Description: Installation with three autonomous robots tethered to balloons that interact with viewers in the gallery and send video stills to a Web site
Commentary: Tethered to three balloons, the mobile platforms roamed the Kranert Art Museum at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, avoiding collision with visitors, with each other, and with walls. While their sensing range was unique to each robot, all three pointed their cameras to visitors and all three backed away from anything closer than three feet. They used infrared/sonar scanning devices to locate, track and navigate towards the targets. The on-board cameras transmitted video wirelessly to monitors located in the exhibition site, where a computer digitized sequential stills for Web upload. The behavior of the robots was conceived so as to simulate a community of smart machines.
Title: The Trace
Authors: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Will Bauer
Description: Installation in which participants interact with one another via a wireless tracker, through which they control lights and sounds
Commentary: In two interconnected similar environments, participants held a proprietary wireless tracker which controlled lamps, computer graphics, and sounds. The local participant’s coordinates in the space were represented by a light ring and two blue light beams which intersected at his position. The remote participant’s coordinates were also represented by a disc and two intersecting blue light beams. Ten speakers enabled the dynamic panning of audio samples. When both local and remote participants shared the same coordinates, the beams came together suggesting the idea of “telembodyment”.
Title: Fractal Flesh – Internet Body Upload Event
Description: Performance in which remote participants controlled the artist’s body motions
Commentary: As part of the “Telepolis” event, realized in Luxembourg, the audience could remotely access, view and actuate the artist’s body via a computer-interfaced muscle-stimulation system. Linked remote stations were located in Paris (the Pompidou Centre), Helsinki (The Media Lab) and Amsterdam (for the Doors of Perception Conference). Although the body’s movements were involuntary, it could also respond by activating its robotic Third Hand. Images of the performance were uploaded to a Web site for wider public viewing.
Title: Rara Avis
Author: Eduardo Kac
Description: Networked telepresence installation linking an aviary to the Internet, the Web, and the MBone
Commentary: Realized at Nexus Contemporary Art Center, in Atlanta, as part as the Olympic Arts Festival, Rara Avis had technical direction by Ed Bennett. While wearing a stereoscopic headset, the viewer perceived an aviary from the point of view of a telerobotic macaw and was able to observe herself in this situation from the point of view of the macaw. The installation was permanently connected to the Internet. Through the Net, remote participants observed the aviary from the point of view of the telerobotic macaw. Through the Internet remote participants also used their microphones to trigger the vocal apparatus of the telerobotic macaw heard in the gallery. The body of the telerobotic Macowl was shared in real time by local participants and Internet participants worldwide. Sounds in the space, usually a combination of human and bird voices, traveled back to remote participants on the Internet. The piece can be seen as a critique of the problematic notion of “exoticism”, a concept that reveals more about relativity of contexts and the limited awareness of the observer than about the cultural status of the object of observation. This image of “the different”, “the other”, embodied by the telerobotic Macowl, was dramatized by the fact that the participant temporarily adopted the point of view of the rare bird.
Title: Ping Body
Description: Performance in which the artist’s body was actuated by Ping commands, which tracked fluctuating Internet activity
Commentary: In response to Ping commands, the artist’s body was stimulated by the flow of data on the Net. Since alleatory pinging to Internet domains makes it possible to check spatial distance and transmission time, the artist used this dynamic data to control body motion with a muscle stimulator directing 0-60 volts to his body. Ping values that indicated spatial and time parameters of the Internet automatically created the performance.
Title: Ornitorrinco in the Sahara
Authors: Eduardo Kac and Ed Bennett
Description: Telepresence event
Commentary: Produced for the IV Saint Petersburg Biennale, in Russia, this event promoted a dialogue between two remote participants who interacted in a third place through two bodies other than their own: one robotic, one a combination of electronics and human body. Realized in a public area of a downtown building in Chicago, The School of the Art Institute, without any prior announcement to facilities users, the event mentioned above consisted basically of three nodes linking the downtown site in real time to The Saint Petersburg History Museum (a Biennale sponsor) and the Aldo Castillo Art Gallery, located in the well known Chicago gallery district. Through these telecommunications ports of entry human remote subjects interacted with one another by projecting their wills and desires onto equally remote and fully mobile, wireless telerobotic and telecyborg objects.
Title: Telepresence Garment
Author: Eduardo Kac
Description: Wireless wearable telepresence apparel that limits the sensorial response of the wearer, converting him in a conduit for a remote participant’s actions
Commentary: The Telepresence Garment, in predominant black, consists basically of a transmitter vest (which places a video transmitter in direct contact with the skin under the cloth), a limbless suit (which eliminates proprioception), and a transceiver hood with no openings for eyes or mouth on which circuit boards were sewn to transmit video and receive audio. The CCD camera was mounted in alignment with the left eye and the audio receiver was mounted in alignment with the right ear. With this garment the human subject is converted into a human object, becoming a direct conduit to a remote operator’s commands. The human body can not see anything at all. It can barely hear, and with great difficulty it can emit guttural sounds. Locomotion on all fours is dramatically disabled by the limbless suit. With this garment, breathing becomes an exercise in patience, and as the temperature rises, sweat drips incessantly, and most senses are effaced or have their range and power reduced. The human body can only rely on instinct and the concern and cooperation of the remote agent. The feelings that emerge once wearing the Telepresence Garment are a sense of spatial unawareness and fear of getting harmed, an agonizing combination of feeling invisible and fragile simultaneously. The Garment was first experienced publicly in the context of the “Ornitorrinco in the Sahara” event.
Title: The Amorphic Evolution
Authors: Chico MacMurtrie
Description: As each machine performs in this forty minute pre-programmed show, it reveals its own unique personality, unlocking primal emotions as new vignettes are introduced
Commentary: The show includes more than 80 interactive and computer-controlled antropomorphic and abstract machines ranging from 12 inches height to 30 feet long. The “Mountain Making Machine”, a hydraulically driven self-contained work which generates and erodes mountain formations serves as a changing landscape against which some of the vignettes take place. The interactive and computer-controlled “Super Dog Monkey” has 24 degrees of freedom, an on-board computer, and the ability to execute multiple physical actions (including seeking out other performing machines and members of the public).
Title: Petit Mal
Authors: Simon Penny
Description: Autonomous robot
Commentary: The title of this piece is a medical term that refers to a momentary loss of consciousness. First designed in 1989, Petit Mal begun to be built in 1993. As an autonomous robotic artwork it explores architectural space and pursues and reacts to people. Its behavior is neither anthropomorphic nor zoomorphic, but is unique to its electronic nature. It has three ultrasonic sensors and three body-heat sensors that allow it to realize the presence of humans near it.. Petit Mal was designed to be lightweight, durable and mechanically efficient, which gave it a “laboratory prototype” physiognomy. By covering parts of the robot’s body with domestic printed vinyl tablecloth, the artist intended to change its appearance. Petit Mal consists of a pair of bicycle wheels that support a pair of pendulums suspended on a single axis. The top pendulum nests a processor, sensors and logic power supply. The bottom pendulum houses motors and motor power supply. The inner pendulum keeps the sensors in a vertical position despite the swing that results from acceleration. Petit Mal functions autonomously in a public environment for many hours before battery replacement is needed.
Title: Ornitorrinco, the Webot, travels around the world in eighty nanoseconds going from Turkey to Peru, and back
Authors: Eduardo Kac and Ed Bennett
Description: Web telepresence installation in which the wireless webot Uirapuru shared its nest with two live turkeys
Commentary: Presented at Otso Gallery, in Espoo, Finland, as part of the MuuMedia Festival, this piece was divided in two remote spaces, both connected to the Internet. In an area of the ground floor, viewers saw a projected image of a Web browser with an embedded window in which 30 fps video, from the point of view of the wireless webot, was displayed. With a mouse viewers could click on the Web page and navigate the space on the body of the webot. Images from the point of view of the webot were automatically uploaded as sequential stills on the Web for remote public viewing. In the underground area, which was accessible to the participants and viewers alike, the webot Uirapuru shared its decorated nest with two live turkeys. The webot, hosting remote humans, interacted with local humans and with the turkeys, in a complex pattern of behavior. The word “peru” represents a country in English, but it also means turkey in Portuguese.
Title: Species Substitute
Authors: Chris Csikszentmihalyi
Description: Robotic device that feeds and kills ants at a controlled rate
Commentary: This work is comprised of a robot that shares a large white platform with ants that move around and that are fed and killed by it. The artist created a historical narrative, featuring the “Species Substitute,” a technology which was developed to save a species of ants from extinction. According to this story, the construction of a dam threatened the ants. To save them, it was necessary to create an artificial ecosystem that consisted of two essential elements of their environment: their predators and their prey. This piece was shown at Otso Gallery, in Espoo, Finland, as part of the MuuMedia Festival, with simulated ants.
Title: Red and Yellow Robot Dance
Authors: Alan Rath
Description: Wall-mounted custom-built robotic arms that move in a patterned fashion
Commentary: These two computer-controlled arms seem to gesture to one another as they graciously rotate around their axis.
Author: Garnet Hertz
Description: Web telepresence event
Commentary: The robot, which was wired to its control system, scratched the floor surface making marks on it, and was watched and controlled by an overhead camera. The tether was connected to the overhead camera, and actually directed the camera’s gaze by physically pulling it wherever it went. The robot, which was located in a studio space in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, was online for about 30 minutes. The project’s intention was to explore the interface between digital interaction and physical output.
Title: No Man’s Land
Author: Louis-Philippe Demers and Bill Vorn
Description: Installation with more than 50 robots that detect the presence of viewers
Commentary: No Man’s Land brings together nine different robot groups dispersed into and cohabiting the whole installation site: The Herd – Eight long tubes flocking together; The Attractors – Four swinging lights; The Parasites – Sixteen percussive units hook onto other machines; The Prisoners – Two robots crawling on the floor attached to their cabling; The Colony – Eight invisible machines in a pile of metal junk; The Flaunted – Eight water-dripping machines; The Scavengers – robots that fight over a piece of metal; The Inverted Scavengers – Same as The Scavengers but with an inverted mechanism; The Untamed – Four robots frenetically banging their cages.
Title: Robots and Knowbots
Directors: Montxo Algora, Santiago Diez, José Antonio Mayo
Description: Exhibition realized at the Circulo de Bellas Arts, Madrid (22-27 October), as part of the international electronic art festival Art Futura
Commentary: Participants included Chico MacMurtrie, Knowbotic Research, Laura Kikauka, Bill Vorn and J. P. Demers, Patti Maes, Hans Moravec.
Title: Metamachines: Where is the Body
Curators: Päivi Talasmaa, Erkki Huhtamo, and Perttu Rastas
Description: Robotic art exhibition realized at Otso Gallery, Espoo, Finland (October 19 to November 10), as part of the MuuMedia Festival, Helsinki
Commentary: Participants included Simon Penny, Alan Rath, Chris Csikszentmihlyi, Eduardo Kac, Ed Bennett, Marcel.li Antúnez Roca, and Sergi Jordá
Title: Robotica Experimenta
Curators: Dr Peter Morse and Shiralee Saul
Description: Exhibition realized at SwanstonHall and the State Film Centre as part of the electronic art festival Experimenta, July 26 – August 10. A screening program, organized in conjunction with the Melbourne International Film Festival, was also produced.
Commentary: Robotica Experimenta focused on the anthropomorphic robot in popular and cinema culture. It included animatronics by Sydney company, Showtronix, a video wall with animations and video by some of Australia’s artists including, Stelarc, pneumatic interactive robots by Pressured Air Services, internet access to related sites and interactive multimedia titles, ‘insectbots’ by Melbourne’s 2hum@n team Davebot V.01, David Boon’s painting robot and works by Tasmanian artist, Peter Wilson, who works with telechirs (prosthetics).
Title: Legal Tender
Authors: Ken Goldberg, Eric Paulos, John Canny, Judith Donath, Mark Pauline
Description: Web telerobotic installation that enabled remote viewers to inspect and conduct experiments on $100 dollar bills
Commentary: One of the bills was real, the other was counterfeit. Remote visitors were asked to register first, which was certainly enough to discourage many, since the mechanical operations promised by the piece would deface the currency — which is a criminal act. Given a portion of a bill to work on, viewers were asked if they would take responsibility for their tests. If the answer was yes, they were given the opportunity to puncture it, for example. After careful examination, viewers were asked to leave their impressions and decide if the bill was real or a counterfeit. The piece raises issues of authenticity and reliability of the Internet and digital images.
Title: Terrain 01
Author: Ulrike Gabriel
Description: Thirty solar-powered robots activated by the participant’s brain waves
Commentary: Brainwave sensors monitor the changing states of the participant’s relaxation, thus regulating the light supply which powers the thirty robots. If the participant is relaxed, the robots begin to move and make noise; if stress is detected the colony remains quiet. The noise may contribute to stress the participant, who then needs to concentrate more to relax, creating a feedback loop.
Title: As Yet Untitled
Author: Max Dean
Description: Interactive installation with industrial robotic arm that picks up photographs and feeds them to a paper shredder
Commentary: Presented at the Art Gallery of Ontario, this piece consisted of a robotic arm, a metal stand holding snapshots, a paper shredder, a conveyor belt, and two hand-shaped metal plates. If he viewer touched the metal plates, he or she prevented the shredding of the photographs, prompting the robot to place the image in a safe place. Otherwise, the robot would feed the image to the shredder, the strips would be carried way by the conveyor belt, and piled up on the floor.
For their invaluable help in trying to locate information and pictures relevant to this chronology, I would like to thank Annick Bureaud, Machiko Kusahara, Diana Domingues, Jasia Reichardt, Carl Solway, Barbara Moore, Anita Duquette, Montxo Algora, Johanna Drucker, George Hirose, and Olga Ihnatowicz. I would also like to thank the artists represented in this chronology who so kindly responded to my detailed questions via email, post and telephone.