Wednesday, March 17, 2010

robot art

many of my favorite things to see around the house or office are robots. i like functional robots, robots that are programmable to do things, but i especially like artistic robots. robots that, to paraphrase oscar wilde, are excusable in their uselessness only because one admires them intensely. i even make useless robot art...wooden boxes with little robots inside (i call them Machine Habitats). my kids even think they're pretty cool. one of my favorite possessions is Reflecto, created by Electro Artworks, and given to me by my wife for our 4th anniversary. my kids love Reflecto too but i had to forbid them from playing with him anymore (mostly) after i needed to mail him back for surgery. some day, i'll buy other pieces from EA, but for now Reflecto has to settle for unrelated robot companions. i also love the work of lawrence northey, though it remains financially out of the means of mere college professors.

my father seems to have caught on and has passed the news my way. he recently went to see a traveling robot exhibit curated by the san jose museum of art that is all about robots. the SJMA website includes some commentary by the curator and artists and shows some of the work in the show. i would love it if the show rolled through NYC because i would jump at a chance to see it.

one of the things i love so much about robot art is that it challenges our conception of nature. well, okay, so i like robot art just because i love robots and there's nothing much intellectual about it. but, given that, i think it's still worthwhile to engage the concept of how robots fit into nature (are they products of nature and, hence, natural? would intelligent robots think of nature as being filled with plants and animals or as filled with robots? perhaps robot plants and animals?). one of the things about robot art is that it so often manages to create a technowonder ... a fanciful whimsy (and we could all use more of that) without losing sight of the seriousness of scientific life and the modern world.


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