Today I would like to share an art exhibition that I saw a few years ago that left quite an impression on me. There were a couple of projects shown there but the one I was facinated by was the Perfomative Ecologies installation. And as the name suggests is a performance carried out by these very unique looking creatures.
So first what I’d like to do is show you a beginning of a little video of the exhibition so you can get better visual on what Im talking about and then I’m going to go into some of the technical aspects of this work and then point out the artists artistic choices in its structural design. Start video: Permformative ecologies was created by Ruairi Glynn who works on a lot of kinetic artworks and is currently a lecturer at university of arts london. exhibition in London, Brazil Spain and has won several awards including the European Top Talent Award for Digital Media. This video is bit more heavy on the artistic side so it’s a little difficult to see whats going on but I’m going to stop now and go ahead and explain the structure and tech behind it
These adorable looking robots are the performers if you will, of this piece. Thebodies of the robots consist of a head that contains a camera and two small lights to allow the robot to “see”. The robot also has a tail which is a rod with led lights that move and flash different colors depending on how the robot decides to dance.
The installation includes four robots that are hung from the ceiling and facing in a very dimly lit room. They are able to rotate a full 360 degrees and have their own little lights to be able to see both the other robots in the room. They are lowered to about face level.When its placed in the room for the first time its innate desire is to perform by doing dances. When they start off they have no pre choreographed dance sequences they only have the ability to make simple movements.
People walking around the exhibition actually influence the type of dance the robot does based on how much attention you give it while it is dancing. The four screens shown here are from the cameras that each of the four robots have. As you can see they are using a facial tracking software open cv. Which is a software developed by intel to and can be used to make sense of image and convert help make decisions and movements based off the results of the interpretation of the image it receives. OpenCV is the brains of this project.
If dances no longer find an audience, it will look to the other dancers in the room and exchange information about successes with certain types of dances. The succeses are measured by the amount of attention the dance receives by the audience. It learns and
Aside from the technologies, what I also enjoyed was the choice in which the artist designed these dancing objects. This picture here is a lovely close up of one of robots as you can see there are two lights for the eyes and a small square camera in the center that make up a face. The artist could have just as easily provided light for the camera in a different orientation but chose to make arrange it like this. What I love about It gives you the feeling as though you are interacting with some sort of living creature.
The shapes of the bodies itself remind me of sea creatures and the way that it moves it tails to me is both abstract but familiar. Abstract in the sense it isnt how you and I would communicate and familiar in that I would associate it as a dog happily wagging its tail. and so it provides me with a sort of positive reaction and invites me to further interact with it. I almost at one point forget that this a combination of metal rods and led lights and feel like im interacting with a live creature. Ultimately the design is in a middle ground of machine and animal and allows me to view it in both ways.
In terms of tech, this work is to make its audience aware of how machines observe them and how their observation affects the machines behavior. Also, in terms of AI these robots learn from past data and use it to make future decisions
Performative Ecologies by Ruairi Glynn
‘Performative Ecologies’ DIGITAL ART INSTALLATION 2007-2009