Issue 8 : Spring 2005





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Robots on the March!

by Heather Dewey-Hagborg

13 May 2005

A performance art event celebrating the work of Bay area artists working with technology.

Saturday, 2 April 2005, 8:00 p.m.

Joe Mckay. 'Press enter to exit'.The rhythmic sound of metal hitting wood punctuates a symphony of bleeps and boops, squeaking gears, and electronic noise. A projector lights up reflecting off two large robots moving slowly though the air, surveying the scene below. A large metal arm begins to jerk back and forth, heralding the entrance of the crowd. By nine o'clock humans and machines are packed in shoulder to shoulder, listening attentively, and the exploration of art and automata begins.

When I started organizing ROTM last November I put out an open call to all artists in all media working with themes of automation, robotics, and artificial life, to join me in putting together a collaborative forum for sharing this work. I asked for ideas and input, attempting to organize an event that reflected the interests of the community as a whole. In contrast to the traditional art-gallery methodology of choosing artists based on their ability to shape their work to fit a pre-defined theme, I wanted artists to choose the show as an opportunity to share work and open a dialog with the community.

It was important to me that the show ... break down boundaries between "audience" and "artist".

Heather Dewey-Hagborg. 'Lighter than air'.The event was an overwhelming success, showcasing the work of fourteen artists and drawing a diverse audience of almost 200 people. Every artist was there in person to present and discuss their work, and informal conversations about the work continued long after the show officially ended.

It was important to me that the show had an inviting and interactive feeling, and that it break down boundaries between "audience" and "artist". To this end I invited everyone to bring their own robots to share, and the highlight of the evening for me was seeing the amazing contraptions people came in with.

Artists presenting work included the following:

Kristin Lucas, "Lo-fi Green Sigh"
Kal Spelletich, "Tele-robotic beer machine", "XK Saz", "the hut"
Beth Waldman, "self serving"
Amy and Stijn, "Cooperative Tag: a multiplayer video game"
Michael Shiloh, "Audience, Recycled Electronics, Foam Core, and Hot Glue: DIY Kinetic Art"
Virgil Polit and Heather Dewey-Hagborg, "Lighter than Air"
Aimee Friberg, "Untitled"
Liam McNamara, "Washing Machine Powered Band-in-a-Box"
Joe McKay, "Press Enter to Exit", The Counting Hand", and "Robots No Follow"
Sean Talley, "autoNES"
Jack Buffington, "Flower" and "Owl"
and SFmicrocontrollers, "Solar Garden"

Though ROTM was a one night event the impact of the evening, the conversation that opened up between artists and the community is only just beginning.

Kal Spelletich. 'Tele-robotic beer machine'.