ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show was held July 12th and 13th at Eyebeam Gallery in Manhattan's Chelsea art district. Featuring the work of 23 artists and groups from six countries, the show is a hybrid combining aspects of both a juried art exhibition and a traditional talent show. Participants include robots that draw, paint, sculpt, sing, dance, and play musical instruments, as well as many with talents that are a bit harder to pin down; you might call them robotic sculpture or even cybernetic performance artists.
In keeping with the "Robot Talent Show" theme, attendees will be invited to vote for their favorite ArtBot. Two awards will be presented at the end of the show: The Audience Choice Award and The Robot's Choice Award (the artists vote for their favorite ArtBots). All ArtBots artists and curators will be present throughout the event.
In organizing the show ArtBots curators Douglas Repetto, Philip Galanter, and Jenny Lee have drawn from a large and varied pool of open call respondents and invitees. The resulting body of work reflects the diversity of opinions, techniques, strategies, and goals found in the world of robotic art. And while much of the work is playful and lighthearted, robotic art gives its human fans plenty to think about.
"The application of robotics to the arts raises interesting questions about things like authorship, responsibility, intentionality, and even consciousness," notes Repetto, "and those questions have relevance that extends well beyond the arts. When an artist makes a robot that makes a painting, who's the painter? Who's responsible? Does it matter? If it's good, who (or what) takes the credit? What about when a robot makes a mistake, or breaks down? Who takes the fall? The technology being used by many artists today is no different from the technology being used to build robotic companions for the elderly, automated security systems, or self-guided missiles. As is often the case, artists are at the forefront of these technological and social developments, asking, if not always answering, important questions about the world we're creating."
Philip Galanter notes, "As with last year's show we've tried to create an event that appeals not only to academically inclined connoisseurs of high technology art, but also families looking for a fun, kid-friendly, afternoon out. With 23 works the exhibition pitches a range of ideas, some of which may be contradictory. If there is an overall trend, however, it is the digital shift of emphasis from the virtual to the physical. A sufficiently complex base of technologies for robotics will yield physical systems that reach out to us in ways that exhibit the surprise, variety, fecundity, and decay of the natural world. Eschewing technology art as a virtual never-world requiring sense numbing LCD-goggles and cyber-gloves to fool the body, these artists have chosen to explore alternate realities, and alternate creatures, by creating them right here in the physical world."
Jenny Lee remarks, "The identity of the creator shifts between human and machine when electronics, digital technology, and natural elements are used as part of the artistic endeavour. Technology, by definition, is precise, quantifiable, and to large extent, predictable. In the hands of artists, technology often results in the unpredictable and quirky. The intersection and overlap of human and machine are intriguing and inspiring. The works in ArtBots are great examples of what is possible when people think beyond the boundaries of standard, technological applications and traditional approaches to artmaking.