Robots are taking over the world. At least that’s what many science fiction novels, comics, and books will portray. With a recent exhibition at the new Tank space at Tate Modern this nightmarish fantasy turns into a reality. Science does not always produce successful art and new projects should not simply rely on the glamour of technological developments to overwhelm the concept of the piece itself.
A new piece constructed by Ruairi Glynn at the Tate Modern seems to favour the technological wow factor over the creation of a piece that is visually stirring in the way that Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” is. It is not politically moving, if anything the “delta robot” responds to commands and emotional endeavors the creative team instruct the computer to react to. This is not an attack on Glynn’s work, but an exploration of how science is beginning to instruct the arts as the digital era marches on, and the internet seems now to become a blip in the past. Other artists in and around London are showcasing the wonders of technology. Some want to view the internal turning cameras and microphones in on the human body to further explore how we work and what we can learn about ourselves. This seems to fulfill an artistic purpose, some being more successful than others.
Tate Modern’s recent exhibit, “delta robot”, a glowing pyramid structure which hovered for 48 hours to the glee of the public is a good example. It seamlessly drifted back and forth from person to person as if it was trying to understand and observe the passersby. Robots are becoming more intelligent but the art itself is not the what is presented to the public. The art, potentially comes in knowing more about how this glowing entity is able to hover and present somewhat human emotions. The robot is able to sense motions because it has several Xbox game consoles attached to the structure which are fitted with Microsoft’s Kinect cameras. These are in turn suspended in the ceiling and relay observable data back to a control room which then can adjust the movements to appear as if the glowing floating orb is interacting with the people in the space.
Technology and art can function together in harmony. Recently a local London art collective called Soundfjord, held an exhibition which explored new technological developments that are used to monitor the sound of the heart. These sounds were then reinterpreted, and strung together to create an even greater project with the intention of showcasing the new technology using art. The focus of the piece was not the technology, but the greater piece that was created. Science certainly has a place in the art world, yet the most successful pieces focus on the greater concept rather than tool that aided in it’s production. Photography as an art form was greatly aided by digitalization, and so there is room for appreciation, although the technology has yet to overwhelm the end product of a truly stunning photograph.
There is a movement growing in the art community particularly in London views machines as art, and the logistical and technological developments as the ends rather than the means. In the acclaimed book We by Russian author, Yevgeny Zamyatin, the world becomes more beautiful to the main character because of the structure that machines and technology create in his life. If this show at the Tate Modern is any indication, the art world is embracing this perspective. Perhaps this show indicates that the technology is the art, it creates an air of mystery and intrigue, which can be interpreted as beauty.
The “delta robot” was an ephemeral piece and is no longer showing at the Tate Modern yet a movement to explore how science can aid art and vis versa is growing in London and around the world. Artists who are a part of Soundfjord are exploring this concept through a variety of ongoing projects. With new developments in technology art is a unique way to explore how these changes will affect humans. The art community is in a position to observe, interpret and analyse how these changes can be best used. There is beauty to be found in these changes, even if they are just bolt and gears.
Words by: Portia Pettersen © Artlyst 2012 Image from: artists site at Interactiverchitecture.org