Share gig, Toronto

September 24, 2007

I am in a ‘share’ gig coming up in Toronto details below.

LE LABO en partenariat avec SHARE MTL
et en collaboration avec le AMBiENT PiNG

 55, Mill Street . Cannery Bldg #58 . Studio 317 . Toronto, ON M5A 3C4
29 septembre 2007 (7h00 pm à 7h00 am le lendemain)



some tech links for robot parts

September 19, 2007




Rabbit microcontrollers


e-art : Communicating Vessels :New Technologies and Contemporary Art

September 19, 2007

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion
1380 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
September 20-December 9, 2007
Free admission


Bad title, great show – i don’t really like all media art shows, but there is alot of works i haven’t seen before. I especially liked Jessica fields and Jim Campbells. The show will be on for a while so maybe worth another post, but could have had more robots 😉


September 7, 2007

I went to the Daniel Langlois Foundation today and was greeted by Vincent and Alexander who printed out a bibliography of robotic art references that they have in their catalogue, Nice! They have a large library collection of media artists monographs, exhibition catalogues, books, and media etc. One particular article, which stood out is Hot to Bot by Edward A. Shanken published online at NeMe.

NeMe is a non profit, non government, non sponsored, Cyprus registered association founded in November 2004. NeMe works on various platforms which focus on contemporary theories and their intersection with the arts.

Hot to Bot by Edward A. Shanken intro below

Pygmalion’s Lust, the Maharal’s Fear, and the Cyborg Future of Art

“The idea that non-living matter could be used to invoke, influence, and emulate living beings is probably as old as human life itself. Over thousands of years this concept has become deeply ingrained in the human imagination as a locus of desires and fears about the future; and about the role of art and technology in forming it. In reviewing some of this history, I shall focus on, for lack of a better term, the moral of the story; in other words, what prevailing attitudes towards robots and other surrogate beings at a certain place and time tell us about the values of that culture.”

Grey Walter

September 6, 2007


I have decided for my next project i would like to build some autonomous mobile robots. The first kind of these robots was created by Grey Walter (1949), he called them ‘Elmer and Elsie. When they ran out of battery power they went to the recharge station and recharged them selves, how cool is that!

Grey Walter’s most famous work was his construction of some of the first electronic autonomous robots. He wanted to prove that rich connections between a small number of brain cells could give rise to very complex behaviors – essentially that the secret of how the brain worked lay in how it was wired up. His first robots, which he used to call “Machina Speculatrix” and named Elmer and Elsie, were constructed between 1948 and 1949 and were often described as tortoises due to their shape and slow rate of movement – and because they ‘taught us’ about the secrets of organisation and life. The three-wheeled tortoise robots were capable of phototaxis, by which they could find their way to a recharging station when they ran low on battery power.

In one experiment he placed a light on the “nose” of a tortoise and watched as the robot observed itself in a mirror. “It began flickering,” he wrote. “Twittering, and jigging like a clumsy Narcissus.” Walter argued that if it were seen in an animal it “might be accepted as evidence of some degree of self-awareness.”

Later versions of the robots were exhibited at the Festival of Britain in 1951. Walter stressed the importance of using purely analogue electronics to simulate brain processes at a time when his contemporaries such as Alan Turing and John Von Neumann were all turning towards a view of mental processes in terms of digital computation. His work inspired subsequent generations of robotics researchers such as Rodney Brooks, Hans Moravec and Mark Tilden. Modern incarnations of Walter’s turtles may be found in the form of BEAM robotics.

Recently, one of the original tortoises was replicated by Dr. Owen Holland, of the University of the West of England in 1995 – using some of the original parts. A specimen of a second generation turtle is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution. Another example can be seen in London UK in the Science Museum’s Making the Modern World gallery.

from WIKIpedia


  • The Living Brain, [1953], Penguin, London, 1967
  • An Electromechanical Animal, Dialectica (1950) Vol. 4: 42—49
  • An imitation of life, Scientific American (1950) 182(5): 42—45
  • A machine that learns, Scientific American (1951) 185(2): 60—63
  • The Living Brain, New York (1953)

Bio Music; Maxime Rioux and Andrew Brouse

September 1, 2007

As this was my first introduction to brain wave controlled performance i was quite amazed by the collaboration between Maxime De La Rochefoucault (Automates Ki) and Andrew Brouse titled “Bio Music. The piece was performed at the (SAT) Society for Arts and Technology for the pure data convention last weekend. The build up to the performance was intense as Brouse attached bio/sensors to this freshly shaved head, which seems to take 30mins. Behind him a selection of Maxime’s robotic instruments and a large piece of hardware that i guessed did the brain wave processing. The piece started with Brouse – eyes closed and breathing deeply, then one by one the robotic instruments began to play, building up to the point where all the instruments were playing together.

Brouse continued to concentrate his breathing which ‘apparently’ allowed him control over his brain waves. Not convinced i walked around the back to see what kind of PD patch they were running. Sure enough it had nothing to do with EEG signals , just a mixer type patch for the audio. During this time i missed the finale in which Brouse was able to turn all instruments off at once!

Myth, man or Magic?


A selection of Maxime De La Rochefoucault’s “Automates Ki”


Andrew Brouse

google video here

Norman T. White

September 1, 2007

Although i never really got Norm’s work (maybe because i have yet to see any) i found reading ‘Machine Life‘ (a catalogue of a retrospective exhibition that also included artists who Norm taught, including David Rokeby ) – an interesting incite into why Canadians are so into robotic and machine art.

One particular seminal piece borrowed from Norm’s site is “The Helpless Robot” (1987-96)


“Another interactive work, except that this one has no motors, but instead must depend upon its synthesized voice to encourage people to move it as it would “like”. I built it primarily as an apparatus to test out different techniques of automatic knowledge-building; in this case, the machine attempts to assess and predict human behavior. Like Facing Out Laying Low, it is essentially an unfinishable work. Materials: plywood, angle-iron, proximity sensors, modified 80386 computer, and custom electronics”.

Also i do appreciate Norm’s central art beliefs,
1. Art should concern itself as much with behavior as it does with appearance.

2. Some of the best art happens when behavior and appearance are completely at odds with each other.

3. Economy of means is a critical part of aesthetics.

4. Art functions best, and is most needed, outside of galleries and museums.