Robotics is a form of media art that utilizes innovative automated technology and machinery, combined with computer expertise to suspend the art form into movement and in its final form. Robotics in media art is generally interwoven with the notion of kinetics, which too is an art form that utilizes machinery and electricity to function (Art Radar 2016). The only difference between the forms of robotics and kinetics is that kinetics does not need computer software to be powered, which is an essential aspect to the suspension of robotic art. Robotics has become a very popular medium for art expression with contemporary media artists, as our society is essentially based around ever evolving innovative technology and media (Art Radar 2016). The use of Robotics in media arts is a clear representation of technology and electronic media’s influence on all aspects of our society. The very first Robotic artworks were created in the 1960’s, and have thus only continued to become more prevalent in modern media art today (Art Radar 2016).
The first media artist that I will be discussing in this post is Ken Rinaldo, who is a media artist and professor who specializes in teaching interactive robotics. Rinaldo is a prime example of a media artist assisting in the development of Robotics in the current media art scope, as he blurs the periphery between the ‘organic’ and ‘inorganic’ fields within Robotic Art (Ken Rinaldo 2015). Rinaldo’s most famous Robotic exhibition is titled ‘Autotelematic Spider Bots’, released in 2006 (Ken Rinaldo 2015). Also created by matt Howard, Rinaldo brings a robotics instillation to life comprising of 10 insect/spider creatures that directly interact with the audience, their surroundings and environment and also have their own food source. This exhibition was actually a robotics experiment that saw how robots could react to energy autonomy by being able to search for and find its designated recharge stations. This exhibition and robots themselves essentially redefined the modern morphology of robotics, as they interacted in such an innovative manner (Ken Rinaldo 2015). The spider robotics have installed LED lights as eyes, that light up when they see and connect with human eyes, highlighting that they are aware of another presence around them. The robots are able to communicate with each other through the form of Bluetooth, which one pivotal robot had complete control of in the exhibition (Ken Rinaldo 2015). The Automatic Spider Bots exhibition gave the audience/humans an insight into how they are seen by insects, and allowed them to see the conscious state of insects.
Furthermore, Canadian media artist Bill Vorn created an interactive robotics art instillation, titled ‘Hysterical Machines’, that too mimics the work of Rinaldo and robotics (Bill Vorn 2015). Vorn’s instillation is titled ‘Hysterical Machines’, and formed part of a research program on artificial behaviors in media arts, that was inspired by work conducted on robotics in the late 1990’s titled ‘Misery of the Machines’ (Bill Vorn 2015). This exhibition of robotics was heavily influenced by context, that being ideas and feelings of deconstruction, dysfunction, fear, peculiarity and incongruity – all expressed and displayed through a functioning robot. The robotic itself runs on a method that is ‘dual-leveled’, which represents the contradicting nature of artificial intelligence and life (Bill Vorn 2015). The robotic comprises of a circular body that has 8 arms, and a sensing and motor system that plays the role of an autonomous central nervous system. Similar to the work of Rinaldo, the robotics in Vorn’s instillation has pyroelectric sensors that permit the robotics to sense the presence of viewers in the room (Bill Vorn 2015).
Moreover, British media roboticist and scrap artist Giles Walker has also made significant developments in the Robotic media art scope through his confrontational robotic instillations that often obtains criticism from reviews. Walker’s instillation ‘Peepshow’ comprises of two robotics that a pole dancing with a DJ (Makezine 2016). Walker constructed this from scrap pieces of windscreen wipers from cars, which are directed by wizard boards. Contextual framework heavily influenced Walker’s objective – that being the issue of surveillance cameras and people being watched by “peeping toms” (Makezine 2016). Walker wanted to see the reaction from his audience against the provocative peeping robotics. Walker utilised security cameras as heads for the pole dancers to highlight his contextual notions of being watched and how people react to the idea of voyeurism – that being the audience. Most of Walker’s work is based upon social commentary, thus the pieces of ‘scrap’ that he uses to form his robotics is pivotal in expressing his messages to the audience as they visually depict social problems – i.e. the issue of surveillance and utlising security cameras as heads for his pole dancers in ‘Peepshow’ (Makezine 2016).
To conclude, Robotics has become a vastly emerging form of media art to communicate social commentary, contextual concerns and challenge the ideas of artificial intelligence in our society. Since its emergence in the 1960’s, Robotics has become a popular vessel in exhibiting ones form of media art, and continues to evolve due to the fast pacing developments of technology in our modern world.
Anon, (2016). [online] Available at: http://makezine.com/2013/04/25/maker-faire-uk-interview-with-artist-giles-walker/ [Accessed 25 Oct. 2016].
Kenrinaldo.com. (2016). Autotelematic Spider Bots | Ken Rinaldo. [online] Available at: http://www.kenrinaldo.com/portfolio/autotelematic-spider-bots/ [Accessed 25 Oct. 2016].
Billvorn.concordia.ca. (2016). Bill Vorn Hysterical Machines. [online] Available at: http://billvorn.concordia.ca/robography/Hysterical.html [Accessed 25 Oct. 2016].
Artradarjournal.com. (2016). What is…robotic art? Art Radar explains | Art Radar. [online] Available at: http://artradarjournal.com/2014/09/05/what-is-robotic-art-art-radar-explains/ [Accessed 25 Oct. 2016].