Robot Opera

June 7, 2016

Robot Opera (2015), is a robotic opera for eight semi-autonomous robot performers. The work has been realised by Wade Marynowsky (robotic artist) in collaboration with Julian Knowles (music/sound) and Branch Nebula (lighting, dramaturgy). Informed by the underlying fields of creative robotics, mediatised performance, music, and interactive media art, the project merges artist driven algorithmic / choreographic concepts with audience driven agency within a large scale performance interaction space 42 x 25m. The project brings together core areas of investigation within these disciplines by establishing a performative context to explore the concept of robotic performance agency.

The project fast forwards the Wagnerian concept of (Gesamtkunstwerk) ‘The Total Art Work’ (1895) into the present, through combinations of movement, sound, light and interaction. Whilst futuristic, Robot Opera draws on a multitude of historic reference points, visually the work embraces minimalist sculpture and the machine aesthetic. Julian Knowles’ musical score interrogates the notion of opera with reference to the history of science fiction film soundtrack, the sonic language of robots in popular culture and the aesthetics of digital sound. Whilst in the context of performance art we acknowledge the tradition of breaking the fourth wall: Alan Kaprow; La Fura Del Baus etc. Importantly, the work also draws on the traditions of electronic music, sound art, media art and performance art cultures experienced personally from the 1990’s.

With an added touch of the spiritual purity of Malevich’s Suprematism, the work asks us to question the theory of Singularity (Neuman, Kurzweil, 2005), that machines will someday be more intelligent than humans and reach enlightenment (Mori, 1989). For Robert Geraci, “The Western goal of building a functional humanoid also received, no doubt, some of its impetus from religion” (Geraci, 2010). From homunculi to singularity theories the creation of robots and artificial intelligence may be considered an act of the divine, but at the same time, a mortal sin from a theological perspective. Recently, the likes of Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates have warned us that artificial intelligence is a threat to society.

Significantly, Robot Opera seeks to rethink what opera and performance is, or can be. By placing non-anthropomorphic robots in place of human performers we question, at what stage or within which contexts can a robot be perceived to ‘perform’ convincing agency?

Robot Opera is a collaborative project between composer Julian Knowles, contemporary performance company Branch Nebula’s Lee Wilson and Mirabelle Wouters; as well as electronics designer Ben Nash and programmer Imran Khan.

The project was produced with support from the Australia Council of the Arts and Macquarie University and co-presented by Performance Space and Carriageworks. We would like to thank Performance Space for their support through residency and development.

Wagner, Richard. The Art-Work of the Future and Other Works. U of Nebraska Press, 1895.

Geraci, R. M. (2010). Apocalyptic AI: Visions of heaven in robotics, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality. Oxford University Press.

Kurzweil, R. (2005). The Singularity is Near.

Masahiro, M. (1989). The Buddha in the Robot: A Robot Engineer’s Thoughts on Science and Religion.

thingWorld: International Triennial of New Media Art, National Art Museum of China, June 11 – July 9, 2014.

May 30, 2014

Frank Garvey’s OmniCircus

July 5, 2013

Frank Garvey is a San Francisco based artist using a mixture of music, animation, theater, and robotics to make a critique of late capitalism. Take a glimpse at the OmniCircus, the studio where it all takes form.

Michael Landy’s Saints Alive at the National Gallery 2013

July 1, 2013

Saints Alive! Michael Landy at the National Gallery. All images copyright: National Gallery.

David Bowen

July 1, 2013

Some great robotic art over at,


For example ‘Swarm’

The New Artist (2010)

July 1, 2013


in collaboration with researchers and engineers from the CMU Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, The New Artist is a collaborative research project directed by STUDIO Fellow Axel Straschnoy

SAILS -> Self-Assembling-Lighter-Than-Air-Structures

December 13, 2009


Project group: SAILS -> Self-Assembling-Lighter-Than-Air-Structures

Project Name: Tryphon

Authors: Nicolas Reeves, NXI GESTATIO Design Lab, University of Quebec in Montreal.

[Project engineer : David St-Onge].

1. Technic : The Tryphons are cubic aerobot of 2.25m side made of a carbon fiber structure. They are entirely autonomous. Equipped with a main computer brain, they can analyze data comming from many different sensors on the robots (light, ultrasounds, acceleration, compass, etc.) and after interpreting them send the appropriate commands to the motors. The robots may move freely in space, without any wire, only by the thrust of their brushless turbofans. The behaviour of the robots depends only on the programming preceding the performance and are limited only by the artist’s imagination.
2. Art : Since the beginning of the Tryphon (and before Mascarillon) project the creators’ choose to make use of the robots for artistic purposes. One of the first objective was (and still is) to be able to assemble many of those flying cube together in space as a 3D printer able to represent in reality architecture virtual models The idea linking cubes with architecture is far more important then their use or their complex carbon fiber structure. It relies in the basic concept of viewing a non aerodynamic object floating and evolving in space without any wires or any grounded equipement. As example of other performance’s possibilities let’s mention : floating projection screen over a crowd, autonomous robots acting with simple insect-like behaviour in restricted environment (pictures of Moscow), interaction with actors in theater. The team is actually working on the last one to present next year a 4 actors – 4 robots performance in Montréal (Canada).