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Innovation & Startups

Machines--They're Just Like Us! Robots take over Wood Street Galleries

How would it feel to see a robot beg? Would you give it a few dollars, or just walk away? These are questions curator Murray Horne hopes to answer in the exhibit “La Cour des Miracles,” on view at the Wood Street Galleries July 11 through September 7. 
 
The art show features robots in various states of distress, interacting with and soliciting empathy from visitors.
 
“The robots are in these contorted gestures that are humanistic, sort of the way a dancer might evoke emotions using a certain gesture,” Horne says, “but it’s interesting that it’s a robot that’s connecting with us, not a human.”
 
Visitors to the show will encounter six different robo-characters, created by artists Bill Vorn and Louis-Philippe Demers: “The Begging Machine,” “The Convulsive Machine,” “The Crawling Machine,” “The Harassing Machine,” “The Heretic Machine,” and “The Limping Machine.” The robots lack emotions and none are truly more sympathetic than others. But, if a robot could fake an ailment to gain pity, would it in some way be more real, because it would seem to have intention? Artists in “La Cour des Miracles” are exploring this idea through their work.
 
The exhibition’s title and subject matter draws on historical fraud that took place in Parisian slums in the 1600s, when beggars in areas called “cour des miracles” or “court of miracles” faked ailments to gain alms, only to rise from their crutches and walk away, miraculously healed. By pointing to acts of human fakery which we may at times believe, the exhibition suggests faked human behavior and “real” robotic behavior—which is always fake—may not be so different.
 
Usually, machines are created to make humans more comfortable and present us with our best qualities, they enable luxurious lifestyles or provide us with a false sense of security—“that’s why I like Siri, she always responds in the affirmative,” Horne says of the mechanized helpful voice inside the iPhone. The artist’s robots may not be as likeable, but they will certainly be as human.
 
In addition to the six robots, Vorn has created “DSM-VI,” a robot that mimics the behaviors of a person suffering from mental health problems. Horne says the entire installation is presented as a labyrinth, reminiscent of the cages of a zoo or the corridors of an insane asylum.
 
“I think it’s one of the most intense visual arts experience you can have,” Horne says, “there will be robots, lights and fog machines all at the same time.”

Source: Wood Street Galleries
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