He has taught as adjunct assistant professor at Parsons MFA in Design & Technology and Parsons School of Art, Design, History, and Theory (ADHT) from 2010 to 2014. He has also taught in the Media, Culture, Communication dept of NYU Steinhardt School of Culture Education and Human Development (2009, 2010, 2011). He has also taught at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) (2007, 2008), and Trinity College’s MsC in Interactive Digital Media (2003, 2004). From 2001-2004 he was a Research Fellow in the Human Connectedness Group at Media Lab Europe and from 2006-2007 he was an R&D OpenLab Fellow at Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology in New York City. He received his Masters from ITP in 1999 and was an Interval Research Fellow from 1999-2001.
Jonah’s work and thesis focuses on the theme of “Deconstructing Networks” which includes over 80 projects that critically challenge and subvert accepted perceptions of network interaction and experience.
He is co-founder of the Dublin Art and Technology Association (DATA Group), recipient of the ARANEUM Prize sponsored by the Spanish Ministry of Art, Science and Technology and Fundacion ARCO, and was a 2006 and 2008 Rockefeller Foundation New Media Fellow Nominee. His writing has appeared in numerous international publications including WIRED Magazine, Make Magazine, Neural, Rhizome.org, Art Asia Pacific, Gizmodo and more, and his work has been presented at events and organizations such as DEAF (03,04), London Science Museum (2008), Future Sonic / Future Everything (2004, 2009), Art Futura (04), SIGGRAPH (00,05), UBICOMP (02,03,04), CHI (04,06) Transmediale (02,04,08), NIME (07), ISEA (02,04,06,09,12), Institute of Contemporary Art in London (04), Tate Modern (03), Whitney Museum of American Art’s ArtPort (03, 12), Ars Electronica (02,04,08), Chelsea Art Museum, ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art (04-5),Museum of Modern Art (MOMA – NYC)(2008),San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) (2008), and Palais Du Tokyo, Paris (2009). His work has been reported about in The Times, The New York Times, Wired News, Make, Boing Boing, El Pais, Gizmodo, Engadget, The Register, Slashdot, NY Post, The Wire, Rhizome, Crunch Gear, Beyond the Beyond, Neural, Liberation, Village Voice, IEEE Spectrum, The Age, Taschen Books, and more.
He has given lectures about his work at locations and venues such as Intel Corporation, School of Visual Arts, Ars Electronica, Canadian Consulate, NYU, UCLA, USC, San Jose State University, ISEA 2002, 2004, 2006, 2012, University of Buenos Aires, Institute of Contemporary Art London, Transmediale, Universität der Künste Berlin, Tate Modern, Oslo National Academy of the Arts, Urbis Manchester, CCCB Barcelona, Open Hardware Summit, Contemporary Art Museum Belo Horizonte, Brazil, The Banff Centre, Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Rhode Island School of Design, Maker Faire, Royal College of Art, Royal Library, Copenhagen, Denmark, Eyebeam, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Pratt Institute, and more.
"The Facets of Obama" created by Jonah Brucker-Cohen using the Fracture application by James Alliban, 2011
The devices we carry with us can do much more than simply act as communication tools and entertainment appendages. They can also bring us into a growing world of artistic projects that could have never been imagined without their existence.
The recent boom in creative software for the iPhone and iPad now enables artists to remake existing web projects as iOS apps or use the physical world as a canvas for augmented reality, reimagining our physical surroundings through painting and rendering. In this article, the fourth one in a series that I've written over the past six years of reviews surveying art for the iPhone and iPad, I cover projects that both revive net art pieces that were once only possible on traditional computer systems or in browsers, as well as those that use the iPhone and iPad's sound and camera capabilities to their fullest.
Thicket:Classic (Hairy Circles mode), 2011, Interval Studios (aka Joshue Ott and Morgan Packard)
Beginning with abstraction and sound, two works examine methods of sound production through algorithmic composition. Thicket (2011) by Interval Studios (programmer and artist Joshue Ott and composer Morgan Packard) is an amalgam of abstract shapes and patterns that engage with touch-based interaction, visual stimulation, generative pattern creation, and mesmerizing sound transference. The original version of Thicket, or Thicket:Classic, feels like a musical masterpiece on the edge of a high precipice. As a user changes the orientation of their phone in four directions (up, down, right, left) the onscreen graphics shift to new modes.
Thicket 3.11 Video, Joshue Ott and Morgan Packard, Interval Studios.
My favorite mode in Thicket:Classic is "Hairy Circles," which features menacing yellow-orangish circles of tangled lines that correspond to each finger's touch and shift when dragged around, creating a machine-like beat that evokes an industrial assembly line. Ott explains, "Thicket uses a bunch of different algorithms—for both audio and visuals. The aesthetic came from repeated experimentation and rapid prototyping of modes. Sometimes we would start with the visuals, sometimes with the audio, but there was often a back and forth process of each of us adjusting our part until we both liked the results."
Molly Dilworth, 547 West 27th Street (2009). From the series "Paintings for Satellites."
In the early 2000s, as location-aware devices first became commonplace, there was a lot of hype surrounding their potential creative use by artists. However, over time, this initial enthusiasm for "locative media"--projects that respond to data or communications technologies that refer to particular sites--leveled off, even dissipated. Regardless of this drought, geospatial technologies are widely used, and play an important and often unnoticed role in conditioning many aspects of our existence. Responding to this condition of ubiquity, artists have continued to use locative technologies critically, opening up closed systems, making their effects visible, and reconfiguring our relationship with such systems.
Photo: Andreas Nicolas Fischer.
A kind of cold weather antipode of summer's "Love Parade," the Transmediale 2014 media arts festival was a beacon of light in the long dusk of a Berlin winter. As a twist on the usual curated exhibition, this year's festival opted for an ad-hoc "Art Hack Day" (AHD) approach, where submitting artists were expected to create new and original artworks in the span of two days (and nights). Opening the exhibition with a more down-to-earth feel, AHD ultimately resembled a DIY, garage-style party instead of a highbrow exhibition space.
PXL, Rainer Kohlberger, 2012
As the iPhone just celebrated its fifth year on the market, artists have already made a substantial dent in the commercially lucrative world of Apple’s AppStore. Despite this success, artists are still pushing forward to build apps that further integrate with the device’s sensors and location-based capabilities. Rather than working solely within the context of software art as I have covered in two previous articles on the subject for Rhizome, there is a focus now on artists who are interacting with the physical world by using the device’s internal sensors, location capabilities, constant Internet connectivity, and built-in cameras.
Using the camera as a sensor, “Konfetti” by German based designer Stephan Maximillian Huber visualizes the image of its subject into countless dots. In effect, the camera image is translated into virtual confetti that follows any movement and creates an ever changing images based on which camera is selected. The dot’s movement is correlated to the detected flow captured by the camera and by repelling other dots, which also move as you touch and drag them. Huber explains over email how the app works as a reflection based art tool. “The app started as an iPad-only app, and on an iPad the app acts like a mirror, showing an abstract reflection of yourself. You'll get a clear image of yourself only when you concentrate on the process of the app, and don't move too fast. It's like contemplating about yourself and the image of yourself. And as your thoughts and emotions aren't static the image the app generates is dynamic and adapts to minimal movements and new ...
In the summer of 2009, I wrote an article here at Rhizome about the burgeoning activities of media artists creating new works or updating versions of their older interactive screen-based projects for Apple's iPhone and iTouch mobile devices. As the article made its way throughout the blogosphere, comments surfaced ranging from criticism of the "closed world of Apple's App Store and iPhone devices" to a championing of the availability of inexpensive multi-touch technology now available to artists who had been waiting for a platform that could adequately display and allow for the type of interaction their projects demanded. A year after the article came out, the draw of these devices and their potentially expansive audience has become even more irresistible to artists enough so that several more "apps" have surfaced. The following article catalogs several new iPhone works which have emerged over the past year, works that are pioneering the next generation of portable media art.
Report from ARS@ARCO
Feb 8-9, 2006
by Jonah Brucker-Cohen (jonah_at_coin-operated.com)
During a temperate February in Madrid, the 25th
annual ARCO Art fair descended on the Spanish
Capital with close to 180,000 visitors, including
museum and art centre directors, gallery owners,
and representatives of international
institutions. The work of over 2,000 artists was
included in the event. From artwork in booths at
the convention center to those scattered in
galleries around the city, as well as many
speaking engagements, the fair was a massive
homage to the art industry as both a global
business venture and a cultural phenomenon. This
year's specially-invited country was Austria,
which brought along a wide array of digital art
projects curated by the Ars Electronica center in
Linz. Accompanying this exhibition was a
symposium on the theme of the "Future of Media
Arts" with artists from Austria and other invited
international visitors, curators, and theorists.
Located north west of downtown Madrid, the Conde
Duque complex housed the "Digital Transit" show
featuring interactive projects in an exhibition
curated by the Ars Electronica Center. Included
in the show were some projects from the
interactive art canon, such as Camille
Utterback's "Text Rain" and Christa Sommerer and
Laurent Mignonneau's "Life Species II." Other
projects in the show included John Gerrard's
"Watchful Portrait," two 3D portraits whose gazes
follow the sun or moon through each day and
night, and in the bio-art domain was
DNA-Consult's "GFPixel DH Portrait," a painting of
4000 Petri-dishes filled with genetically
transformed bacteria that produce green light.
Also in the show was Christian Moller's "Cheese,"
a video installation of six young actresses
attempting to hold a "smile" for over an hour
while video tracking measures the "sincerity" of
their smiles. An alarm sounded if their
"happiness" fell below a certain level. Most of
the projects in the exhibition had strong visual
components, including Norbert Pfaffenbichler,
Michael Aschauer and Lotte Schreiber's "24!," a
spatial audio-visual installation consisting of
24 pedestals in a grid formation with a
projection of a black pixel on the surface of
each. The pixel's movement is based on a simple
mathematical structure giving it 24 possible
movements to cover all corners of the square,
thus creating a cascade of sounds during these
movements. Examining public data sets was
Ubermorgen.com's "Vote Auction," a website that
offered US citizens a chance to sell their
presidential vote to online bidders during the
2000 elections which resulted in several states
issuing temporary restraining orders for "illegal
Across the plaza from the Digital Transit show
was the "Condition PostMedia" show curated by
Elisabeth Fiedler y Christa Steinle. This
exhibition featured projects attempting to bridge
boundaries between preconceived notions of media
art and more traditional art forms. A highlight
of this exhibition was the "Shockbot Corejulio,"
by Austrian artists Emanuel Andel and Christian
Guetzer, which consisted of a computer that ran a
program instructing it to "shock" itself by
lowering a metal instrument on top of its exposed
video card. The result was garbled video output
that attested to the frailties of modern
technology and its obedience to succumb to its
own demise. This project also recently won an
award at the Transmediale 2005 festival in Berlin.
North of the city, the Ars@ARCO symposium got
underway at the ARCO fair. The intent of the
panelists was to give their vision of where Media
Art will be in the next five to ten years.
Gerfried Stocker, director of Ars Electronica and
organizer of the panels and exhibitions began the
day by stating that the term "media art" is
problematic because it harbors too many
definitions such as "cyber art," "digital art,"
"virtual art," "software art," "net.art," or
"interactive art." The main focus seemed to be
that digital art had moved away from the gallery
as the only way of seeing the work and was now
more integrated in arenas such as the Internet
and other "happenings" in public spaces. Heidi
Grundmann opened the panels with a presentation
of her work in "Radio art."
Focusing on media art in an international
context, the second panel featured artists,
curators, and facilitators representing work from
Africa, Asia, South America, and India. Jose
Carlos Mareitegui, from Peru, spoke on how
technology enables the "de-materialization" of
information that has created a new artistic space
for artists who can update their work on a
continuous basis. Geetha Narayanan, director of
the Srishti School for Art and Technology in
Bangalore, India spoke about how new media art
from post-materialistic societies will be
different than those from developing countries by
shifting from "consumption" to "quality of life"
oriented approaches. Elaine Ng, director of Art
Asia Pacific Magazine, spoke on how Japan is not
reflective of the greater art scene in Asia and
how Korea and Taiwan are beginning to follow the
technological lead of Japan. Focusing on the
African continent, Marcus Neustatter, curator and
artist in the "Trinity Session" of Johannesburg,
South Africa, spoke about how future media
artists are a mixture of everything from
entrepreneurs, to musicians, to filmmakers and
how the distinction between media artists and
those trained technically is decreasing.
The third panel featured artists and art
historians working in various media arts fields.
I spoke about my work in deconstructing network
relationships and how the future of media arts
relates to open systems and reconfigurable
rule-sets that change dynamically based on user
interaction. Beijing-based game artist Feng Meng
Bo spoke about his work in alternative gaming
interfaces and his project "Q3," in which he
digitally inserted himself carrying a camcorder
into the Quake 3 gaming environment. Also on the
panel was Dr.Katja Kwastek, an assistant
professor of Art History at the University of
Munich, who spoke about media arts from an
historical perspective. Derrick De Kerkove,
director of the Marshall McLuhan Program in
Culture and Technology, at the University of
Toronto, wrapped up the session saying that "More
and more the consumer has the capacity to modify,
shift, and obtain ownership of art," and that the
"Art" is the act of this manipulation itself,
where rules are broken by consumers. In the
larger sense, most, if not all, interactive media
art has rules associated with it and the future
will see the audience redefine and break those
rules through their interaction. The resulting
system will then be integrated back into the work.
As the ARS@ARCO event wound down, it was obvious
that the future of media arts remains a difficult
subject to clearly articulate. From commercial
and private research centers to art labs
releasing projects for the public domain, to the
independent artist working in their studio, the
creators of this type of art propagate from so
many different outlets and outlooks. With trends
in the blog-o-sphere pointing at DIY aesthetics
and "amateurs" creating inventive hacks to
existing consumer electronics products, the idea
of what "art" consists of, in this field,
constantly needs redefinition. The artists
involved in the symposium came to the conclusion
that media art is not only about using a medium
to express oneself, it is also about questioning
the very circumstances, time, place, and most
importantly, method and culture in which they are
"PLEASE DO NOT SPAM ART"
That would definitely get the point across
* Below is information about the next SimpleTEXT
peformance on October 26 @ NYU*
Please forward to those who might be interested in attending!
*a cell phone enabled interactive performance* by Family Filter
Wednesday, October 26, 2005 (8 pm)
Bring your Cell phone and Wireless Laptop!
New York University (NYU), NYC, USA
Kimmel Center for University Life
in the Beverly and Arthur Shorin Performance Studio
8th floor, 60 Washington Square south
Corner of 4th St and LaGuardia Place (on Washington Square Park)
THIS EVENT IS FREE TO ALL
More info on the Handheld Event: http://www.osa.nyu.edu/programboard/
SimpleTEXT is a collaborative audio/visual public performance that
relies on audience participation through input from mobile devices
such as phones, PDAs or laptops. SimpleTEXT focuses on dynamic input
from participants as essential to the overall output. The performance
creates a dialogue between participants who submit messages which
control the audiovisual output of the installation. These messages
are first parsed according to a code that dictates how the music is
created, and then rhythmically drive a speech synthesizer and a
picture synthesizer in order to create a compelling, collaborative
SimpleTEXT focuses on mobile devices and the web as a bridge between
networked interfaces and public space. As mobile devices become more
prolific, they also become separated by increased emphasis on
individual use. The SimpleTEXT project looks beyond the screen and
isolated usage of mobile devices to encourage collaborative use of
input devices to both drive the visuals and audio output, inform each
participant of each other's interaction, and allows people to
actively participate in the performance while it happens.Our purpose
with the performance is to create the possibility of large-scale
interaction through anonymous collaboration, with immediate audio and
visual feedback. SimpleTEXT encourages users to respond to one
another's ideas and build upon the unexpected chains of ideas that
may develop from their input..
SimpleTEXT is created by Family Filter, a collaboration between Jonah
Brucker-Cohen, Tim Redfern, and Duncan Murphy. It was originally
funded by a commission from Low-Fi, a new media arts organization
based in London, UK and has been performed in 5+ countries worldwide.
This event is sponsored by NYU's Program Board and the "Handheld"
About SimpleTEXT: http://www.simpletext.info
Jonah Brucker-Cohen - http://www.coin-operated.com
Tim Redfern - http://www.eclectronics.org
Los Angeles, CA
July 31-Aug 4, 2005
by Jonah Brucker-Cohen (jonah_at_coin-operated.com)
In the heat of the LA summer, SIGGRAPH 2005 opened its doors to
50,000+ computer graphics technologists, animators, musicians,
artists, geeks, curators, and digital media professionals. This
year's Art gallery and emerging tech sections featured hundreds of
projects that aimed to showcase the "future" of computer graphics and
interaction. Since I was active in this year's conference, I didn't
get a chance to visit every presentation or try every demo, but here
is a report from the projects and talks that I saw.
This year's main event was the keynote address by acclaimed filmmaker
and special effects innovator, George Lucas. Widely considered as the
"father of digital cinema", Lucas proclaimed himself as a storyteller
before anything else. In order to realize the worlds he envisioned he
turned to computers as an enabling technology. He calmly stated that
he was "not a computer person" and had "no idea what SIGGRAPH people
do." He referenced Akira Kurosawa as a filmmaker who triumphs in
creating an illusion that fantasy worlds exist and proclaimed the
secret to this as "immaculate reality." Lucas's humble moment was
when he admitted to the audience, "I don't know how you do this
stuff, but it allows me to tell a story so I'm happy you're doing it."
On the ground floor of the convention center was the SIGGRAPH Art
Gallery: "Threading Time", which featured a wide range of interactive
and other digital artworks from artists around the world. On the wall
in a red frame was Boredom Research's "Ornamental Bug Garden" a
small, animated screen-based ecosystem that reacted as visitors
approached. Also interactive was Camille Utterback's "Untitled 5:
External Measures Series", a collage of painterly shapes and images
that animated according to visitors movements tracked from overhead.
On the opposite was John Gerrard's "Watchful Portrait", a 3D portrait
that followed the sun's ascent and descent. On the other side of the
wall Gerrard's "Saddening Portrait" was another 3D figure who's face
gradually saddened over a 100-year period. Perry Hoberman's "Art
Under Contract" consisted of a large metal case on the wall with a
small, motor controlled shutter door. After each visitor clicked the
"agree" button of a simple contract, the door would open exposing the
art, but then suddenly shut after the viewing time was over. This
project was a good example of a piece of media art controlling its
In the "Emerging Technologies" section, projects ranged from new
types of interactive displays to tactile control mechanisms for
interacting with the screen to more artistic uses of technology. The
highlight of the show was Japanese artist Toshio Iwai's (in
collaboration with Yamaha) "Tenori-On" a physical interface that
allows people to create musical compositions visually by pressing on
a dense array of lighted buttons. The instrument's simple, yet
elegant output was a nice reminder that the increasing complexity of
digital interfaces often clouds basic creativity. Other interesting
creative projects included "Exhale: Breath Between Bodies" a series
of networked skirts that collected the breath of the wearers and
transmitted the data to fans in corresponding skirts.
Upstairs from the keynote, art galleries, and other lecture rooms,
the Guerrilla Studio was a place where visitors to the event could
create projects from various different media. I co-ran a workshop
there with Katherine Moriwaki called "DIY Wearable Challenge",
co-hosted by the Ludica Gaming Atelier, where we invited conference
attendees to create simple wearable projects in a few hours from
basic electronics and sensors. The best creations made their way to
the cyber fashion show, hosted later on at the event. This type of
dynamic creativity was evident in other areas of the studio where
visitors could create board games, 3D prints of designs, and even
on-the spot motion capture animations.
As the conference continued, I managed to attend a few of the panels
and presentations. The ISEA 2006 meeting was an organizational
meeting and open forum for the upcoming ISEA symposium and media art
event in San Jose at the end of 2006. The panel featured curator
Steve Dietz, Cynthia Beth Rubin, Peter Anders and others involved
with the conference's organization and curation. In addition to
speaking about the ISEA event, the panel was also meant to launch "01
San Jose", a new, US based bi-annual media arts festival to take
place in San Jose. The prospect of a larger festival occurring in
northern California is nice evidence that there is still money left
in Silicon Valley.
Moving into West Hall B, the "Extreme Fashion" special session
included speakers working with fashion and technology from varied
disciplines. International Fashion Machines (IFM) founder Maggie Orth
began with a presentation about the definition of extreme fashion and
how the true fashion technology object includes input, processing and
some type of display mechanism. She gave the example of the "Voltaic
Jacket" which includes solar panels on its back to harness power to
charge portable data devices worn on the body. Orth saw the main
roadblocks to wearable technology as 1) No standards of wash ability
2.) Little commercial activity and 3.) lack of good display
materials. Professor Thad Starner of Georgia Tech spoke about his
"Free Digiter", proximity sensing device can detect simple movements
of its wearer and be mapped to control functions such as volume
levels on car and portable MP3 players. Dr. Jenny Tillotson spoke
about her "Second Skin Dress" which attempts to "create a personal
scent bubble around the wearer". This would help to prevent bad moods
and add an emotional quality to everyday experience. Elise Co of
Minty Monkey showed some of her current work including the "Lumiloop"
bracelet that illuminates based on patterns created by its wearer and
the UFOS shoes that light up according to specified movements. "Your
outfit shouldn't be the technology, this is something that could go
with the rest of your stuff" explained Co. Also on the panel was
Katherine Moriwaki who spoke about her PHD work into "Social
Fashioning" and several of her projects that monitor the environment
and attempt to create social relationships between people occupying
This session ended as the "SIGGRAPH Cyber Fashion" show began. The
show, hosted by wearable tech artist and enthusiast, Isa Gordon of
Psymbiote, featured a collection of wearables that resembled
everything from a post-Tron utopia to a trip to the Sharper Image.
Every model on the floor had a piece of electroluminescent glow wire
as standard garb. Some of the highlights included Luisa Paraguai
Donati's "Vestis: Affective Bodies" a full body suit with tubes
surrounding the wearer that expanded and contracted as personal body
space and "comfort zone" was infringed upon. Similarly, Simona Brusa
Pasque's "Beauty and the Beast" is a pair of plexiglass shoes that
include a stun gun embedded in the toe of one, and an alarm system in
the other activated by wearer stamping their feet. Overall there was
an interesting mix of clothing that reacted to outside stimuli and
those that protected its wearer.
As SIGGRPH 2005 came to a close, the conference seemed to be stuck in
a continual challenge between how to smoothly integrate the corporate
graphics world into the fringe artistic spectrum. This was evident
with the chaotic scene at the Cyber Fashion show and the low level of
artistic input into the Electronic Theater. The panels seemed more
dense with artistic input this year, but the separation between
disciplines seemed more evident as crossover participation waned.
Perhaps if the new ZeroOne conference in San Jose is successful it
will draw the artistic spectrum away from SIGGRAPH and let it regain
focus back onto the graphics industry. I guess time will have to be
the instigator in that debate.
--- Jonah Brucker-Cohen (jonah_at_coin-operated.com)
July 15-17, 2005
Saints Michael and John Church
By Jonah Brucker-Cohen (jonah (at) coin-operated.com)
Held for the first time outside of the US, the 4th annual "Artbots:
The Robot Talent Show" took place in Saints Michael and John church
in Dublin, Ireland. During an unusually warm summer in Dublin, the
yearly event showcased over 20 projects from 10 countries ranging
from kinetic art-producing robots to solar robot and scrapyard sound
workshops. Organized by Douglas Irving Repetto and curated this year
with Michael John Gorman and Marie Redmond, the event featured an
even more international group of artists than from previous years
coming from as far as South America, Europe, US, and the Middle East.
The show was held in conjunction with the larger, summer-long "Save
The Robots" festival about the culture and history of robots
organized by The Ark, a cultural center for children located in the
heart of Dublin's Temple Bar district.
Upon entering the venue, visitors were greeted by Venezuelan artist
Elias Crespin's "Malla Electrocinetica #1", a mesh of 64 nodes
hanging from the ceiling that subtly moved in a wave above the
entrance stairwell. This piece's delicate movements were as intricate
as they were beautiful and precise. Moving further along the first
level and down the hall was Will Tremblay and Rob Gonsalves' "Wave
Puppet", a physical simulation of waves across the ocean's surface.
Following a similar aesthetic to Crespin's work, the project was
built from a combination of servomotors, acrylic walls, and a rubber
surface that bent forward and backwards like a steady moving wave.
As the entrance hallway extended, there were two workshops that
allowed visitors to the event to build their own robots or musical
instruments. Ralf Schreiber and Tina Tonagel's "60 minutes bot"
workshop integrated simple electronic components including wires,
electric motors and solar panels to create simple bots that exhibited
varied movements based on their exposure to light in a small exhibit
space. The second workshop, which I ran with Katherine Moriwaki, was
called "MIDI Scrapyard Challenge" and allowed visitors to create
musical controllers out of cast off or discarded materials found in
local junk shops and in the refuse bin of local computer labs. Both
workshops engaged participants from varied age groups to get involved
in the creation of robots and electronic instruments with little or
no previous knowledge of electronics.
Further down the hallway along the walls was "Sketch of a field of
grass (dunes, Pacific Coast, 2005)" by Ryan Wolfe. The project
consisted of a row of mechanically controlled blades of grass that
responded to each other's movements mimicking a breeze blowing
through a field. The simplicity of this array of grass was a nice
reminder of how natural movements can be emulated through simple
motorized controllers. Across the walkway was Amanda Parkes and
Jessica Banks's "Curiously Strong", an array of 250 mechanically
controlled Altoid's tins that opened and closed as a large kinetic
Moving into the main exhibition space, robots exhibited ranged from
those that created art as a byproduct of their movements to those
that questioned the very definition of mechanical or autonomous art.
Bruce Shapiro's "Ribbon Dancer" was two long metal arms mounted on a
banister that moved wildly around the space with ribbons attached to
the ends. Their actions resulted in a lively and fluid stream of
animated fabric high in the air. Further along the far wall was
Sabrina Raaf's "Translator II: Grower", a mechanical robot that
measured carbon dioxide levels in the room and drew green blades of
grass of varying heights along the walls. This type of immediate
analysis of the environment was a nice constant reminder of our own
physical output manifested by the machine. Further across the room
was local Dublin artist Peter O'Kennedy's "Escape", a collection of
15 small mouse-shaped robots all attempting to move towards a single
passageway that was only big enough for one of them. This simple
concept proved addictive to watch as the small bots scurried towards
an awkward freedom.
Though not a competition, Artbots awards two prizes each year: one to
the artist's choice and one for the audience choice. This year's
audience favorite was Garnet Hertz's "Cockroach-controlled Mobile
Robot #2". Hertz's robot consisted of a large Madagascan Hissing
Cockroach perched atop a modified trackball that controlled a
three-wheeled robot. As the cockroach tried to move forward, its feet
caught on the trackball, pushing the robot ahead. Thus allowing the
roach to "drive" the robot around depending on its activity. This bot
got a lot of stares from pedestrians as Hertz took it out to a local
square to give it more space to manouver. The artist's favorite prize
was awarded to Elias Crespin's kinetic mobile described earlier.
Also located in the main exhibition space was the masochistic
"Shockbot Corejulio", a computer-based device that affected its own
behavior by placing a piece of metal over its exposed circuit board.
With each touch from the metal, the bot consequently "shocked" itself
causing the graphics output of the screen to change. The resulting
display resembled a Mondrian painting which became more and more
abstract the further the bot was shocked. Moving down into the
basement of the church, "Nervous", by Bjoern Schuelke, consisted of
small, bright orange, furry objects that coated the walls of the
space. As you got closer and touched them, they began to shake and
emit nervous sounds. This project was a nice simulation of the "human
side" to artificial life and a reminder of the "fragility" of
As the show came to a close, it was evident that automated or
mechanized art is not dependent on the creation itself. Most of the
work in the show came to life with audience involvement and through
the individual perception each participant and author brought to the
works. Throughout its four year existence, Artbots has presented a
sample of work that re-defines what "robotic art" is or how it could
be perceived (see the website for a list of all works included). Each
of the works in this year's show were unique reminders that
technological art can produce the same visceral reaction usually
associated with traditional art forms. The kinetic nature of the
works adds a relational aspect for the viewer who can project their
own experience on the piece. This remarkable quality to the work and
high standard of curation from a yearly open call, has turned Artbots
into one of the most unique and eclectic electronic art festivals
--- By Jonah Brucker-Cohen (jonah (at) coin-operated.com)