Wednesday, August 15

Robotics in art: moving past function

The cybernetic hand moves across the canvas at an eerily constant speed - perfect, flawless. It suddenly stops, dabs a brush into a pot and drags it across the canvas. The piece is the latest example of Simon Ingram's "Painting Assemblages", recently installed at the Adam Art Gallery. For the last few years Ingram has been pursuing his doctorate by investigating artificial intelligence and painting, relinquishing creative control over execution to an industrial machine. Painting Assemblages is a horrifically poor use of old technology - CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) techniques were developed by the US Air Force in the 50s for metal cutting techniques and are capable of extremely fine tolerances (.002 mm). And that's precisely why it's interesting. "Assemblages" runs roughshod over all the glittering conventions of robotics - a paint splattered machine made partially out of lego that is forced to stand-in for the artist.

Bruce Shapiro has spent the last 15 years in a grey space between science, technology and art. Like Ingram, he's repurposed CNC and motion control for far 'less functional' means. "Sisyphus III", Shapiros latest incarnation of his sand plotter, picks up on Japanese garden and Tibetan sand mandala traditions, generating flawless mathematical patterns continuously. Similarly, his "Ribbon Dancer", inspired by Chinese dance, was recently installed in the Science Center in Iowa, USA. "Dancer" populates the lobby area, drawing dynamic, fluid lines through the space.

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