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.