20 September 2008

and we are dancing mechanic

Just back from 'Artbots', a weekend-long exhibition at the Science Gallery. Described as a 'robot talent show', the exhibition contains a number of installations that bridge robotics with art. Very few can technically be described as actual robots, but most at least fused art and engineering in a thought provoking manner. Curated by (amongst others) Warren Ellis, its definitely worth a visit. Though it is a highly visual and tactile experience and thus hard to describe, I've highlighted a few pieces that really stood out for me:

IC Hexapod
Matt Denton (2007) shown right
A six legged robot with a web cam and face-recognition software. It locked on to your eyes and followed your head around, moving to get a better view. The camera broadcast what it saw on the web, and this in turn was displayed a few meters away in the cafe. I did have words with its creator though - when will people realise that teaching robots to do things like recognise faces, follow our movement, self replicate and eat meat, is never a good idea. Doesn't anybody vaguely working in this field ever go to the cinema?

Chris Kaczmarek (2006)
A simple piece, but elegantly crafted. Four eggshells were fashioned into a solar-powered autonomous percussion instrument. Four small solar panels each charged a small battery, when the battery was full a motor pulled a set of egg-shells apart and released them, causing a surprisingly loud and solid 'clack' when the shells smacked back together. Because the movements of the people looking at the piece caused varying amounts of light to fall on each of the solar panels, the length of time each battery took to charge was randomized. Thus the "clacks' were set in an asynchronous pattern. Simple, but beautiful to watch and hear.

The Storm (2000)
Six Bands (2003) shown left
Jack Pavlik
Two installations using sheets of spring steel manipulated by a motor and cranks to create waves of motion, and in the case of 'The Storm', the sound of rolling thunder. Probably my favourite piece.

Telematic Drum Circle
Byeong Sam Jeon (2008)
Now normally I run a hundred miles from any hint of a drum circle, but this was different. Four instruments (two drums, maracas and a tambourine) could each be shaken and struck via a web-operated controller. Three laptops were set up around them to allow the audience to control the instruments directly, though the artist has created 20 piece ensembles that were controlled via the internet from multiple locations around the globe simultaneously.

I love the Science Gallery. Its such a great idea, its exhibitions so far have been engaging and inspiring, and the fact that it is frequently open late into the evening and is free demonstrates a genuine desire to educate as well as entertain.

The Science Gallery


At 4:48 pm, Blogger Kate said...

It's a replicator. It's really a replicator. *shudder* does it make that noise?

I may be a nerd but I'll be one of the last ones standing because I've watched enough Sci-Fi to know how these things work.

At 6:41 pm, Blogger Unkie Dave said...

see, that's how they get you. You spend so much time focused on the insectoid robot in front of you that you never see the talking monkey with a thirst for human flesh sneaking up behind you with a stick sharpened on both ends.

At 9:32 am, Blogger Kate said...

I'm ok with rabid monkeys - I know sign language. If it works with Gorillas in the mist then it clearly works with rabid and/or genetically modified monkeys.

I'll be hitting the big smoke the Sat evening - fancy a pint or a bit to eat?

At 3:35 pm, Blogger Unkie Dave said...

sounds good - give me a shout on Saturday! Also, no blog posts since July? Very poor show, very poor show indeed - you mustn't disappoint your audience like this...


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