'Robotarium' in group exhibition 'Somewhere Else, Artists from Wales at the 51st Venice Biennale'
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My research explores the relation between the human being and technology, and contributes to the study of human-technology aesthetics within WIRAD’s Fine Art and Ceramics theme. I was invited to present work in the Welsh Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. The Biennale selector had previously curated my first solo show in the UK (Z Lab 2001, Chapter Arts centre, Cardiff, 2001), and was interested in my playful yet dark responses to the relation between human and technology. My installation at the Biennale, titled Robotarium, continued my research into the kinds of automated form and behaviour which can elicit the projection of human or animal properties by an audience. Three machines were on show. Two of them, called the Sexed Robots, were autonomous mobile platforms, fitted with complementary genital organs made of aluminium and plastic. They performed different programmed behaviours which could be interpreted as, for example, mating, sleeping, exploring, singing. The tension caused by recognizing human properties in a programmed machine was also generated by the third robot, SmartBot. Empathy with the robot was encouraged by its humanoid eyes with large eye lashes, and humanoid voice. The robot was programmed to be in a perpetually trapped condition, constantly spinning around and swearing when encountering boundaries. The research significance of these pieces was that they showed how automata could be constructed and organized in such a way that their movements could be interpreted in human terms, and contributed to awareness of the extent to which artistic perception involves seeing one thing (machine) as something else (human).
12 June - 6 November 2005, Welsh Pavilion, Ex Birreria, Giudecca, Venice.
NESTA, Cardiff School of Art and Design, Arts Council of Wales, Wales Arts International
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