Robotic & Kinetic Art

According to Kac (1997), the development of kinetic art in 1960s opened the perspectives of development for modern media art by breaking away from the concept of stable and static art works. It has shaped a new aesthetic system in our society as, the majority of robot developments were for entertainment and scientific research until 1950s. In modern days, technologies have invaded every part of our lives. Yumaz (2014) pointed out that these high technologies have also added a new view point to the art and the role of robotics and kinetic engineers have become significant in contemporary art.


Robot K-456 (1964)

Korean-born artist Nam June Paik has created numerous low-tech multimedia installations and experimental performances. His early interest in composition and performance has been considered profound and sustained impact om the media culture of last twentieth century (Anderson, 2013).

The Robot K-456 was his first life-size robot that is remote controlled and it was built with Japanese electronics engineer Shuya Abe in 1964 (Mcintyre, 2015). The robot K-456 has acquired a certain value over time as it introduced free mobility and interaction with public (Kac, 1997). The robot was named after one Mozart’s Piano Concertos and it’s programmed to talk, walk, and defecate beans. The robot was hit by a car during the public performance in year 1964, but it was also planned as part of the performance and reconstructed after. According to Mcintyre (2015), the robot is clearly showing the artist’s persistent interests in the relationship between art, technology and human body.



Figure 1. Robot K-456 (1964)


Third Hand (1981)

Stelac’s third hand was created in 1981 for his first robotic performance. Kac (1997) said in his paper that the performance is represented the evolved cyborg and posthuman metaphors. In the Third Hand performance, Stelac explored the possibility of writing simultaneously with his right and his third hand. The third hand was moved with his muscle movements as if it is a body extension. It is very interesting how Stelac has a point of view that the body can be treated as an object and it can be redesigned with technology (Lain, 2008).



Figure 2. Stelac, The Third Hand (1981) Courtesy the artist


One Kind of Behaviour (2000)

Shyu Ruey-SHiann is a Tiwan born artist and he is well-known for creating mechanical and kinetic sculptures since 1997. Xuan Mai Ardia (2016) states that the artist treats the mechanical form as an abstract communication tool and He wants to deliver his ideas and messages about his feeling towards life, current issues which concerns him. His works are mechanically complicated yet the design would always convey the impression of simplicity and that is the contradiction the artist is aiming at (Xuan Mai Ardia 2016).

Xuan Mai Ardia (2016) explained that the installation One Kind of Behavior uses same-sized steel buckets scattered to open and close randomly at a slow speed. The shape of the artwork was inspired by hermit crabs and their slow movements which are contrasting the high speed of society change. The use of steel bucket was a metaphor of hard shell of a crab and it also symbolises the weak human trying to protect themselves. According to the artist, the rhythm the buckets making represent human heartbeat and he wants the viewers to think about how the mechanical developments have been impacting the nature.


IMG_2772_11.jpgFigure 3. One Kind of Behavior (2000) courtesy of Fubon Art Foundation

As Yulmaz (2014) states, artists in these days can benefit from the opportunities provided by high developed technologies and this could nourish art itself as well as offering diversity.



Andreson, J., 2013. Nam June Paik: Preserving the Human Televisions – News – Art in America. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 27 Oct. 2016].

Kac, E. 1997, Foundation and development of robotic art , Art Journal, vol. 56, no. 3, pp. 60-67.

Lain, 2008. let’s shake hands with the third hand. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 27 Oct. 2016].

Mcintyre, S. 2015, NAM JUNE PAIK, ArtAsiaPacific, no. 92, p. 153.

The Bronx Museum, 2014. Shyu Ruey-Shiann: One Kind of Behavior – Exhibitions – The Bronx Museum of the Arts. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 27 Oct. 2016].

Xuan Mai Ardia, C., 2016. 8 Robotics Artists From China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. [online] The Culture Trip. Available at: <; [Accessed 27 Oct. 2016].

Yulmaz, B., 2014. Art Engineering and Kinetic Art. Journal or Arts & Humanities, December, pp.16-21.


Image References:

Figure 1. März, R., 2016. Robot K-456 (1964). [image] Available at: <; [Accessed 27 Oct. 2016].

Figure 2. Stelac, 2016, The Third Hand, 1981, Courtesy the artist. [image] Available at: <; [Accessed 27 Oct. 2016].

Figure 3. The Bronx Museum, 2014, One Kind of Behavior (2000) courtesy of Fubon Art Foundation, [image] Available at: <; [Accessed 27 Oct. 2016].



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