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Robots and Culture, an interview with Matthew Connell

by Deborah Turnbull on 07 OCT 2015

A Transcript for On Curating: Robots as Culture  | Powerhouse Museum, MAAS, 11 September 2015 | 10:00-11:04am

DTT: We are talking today about robotics and its influence on our culture for the IEEE publication contribution we’ve been offered through Springer…can you please state your role and where you work?

MC: Yes. I’m the Principle Curator at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney, Australia.

DTT: Ok so I’m going to ask you a series of questions on this topic and from this I hope to extract our book chapter.

MC: Good onya.

DTT: Q1 | What do you think of when I ask you about robots in general?

MC: Well robots in general [are] tough...and defining them is difficult. You ask me what I think, but I think...what’s the definition of a robot and I think that it’s poorly defined. Because we often think of robots as being objects with human form/shape that have agency, that can sense their environment, that can make decisions and then act on those decisions. Although, we do know that some robots are just machines that can be driven by human beings, sometimes at a distance, sometimes on site. Of course we have a vast array of robots in the <Powerhouse> collection that nobody would deny are robots, but they are tin representations of TV characters. But those characters presumably had agency and had the capacity to mimic aspects of human behavior including thinking or the ability to respond to their environment. Of course I often wonder when I’m flying in an airplane whether the modern passenger airplane flying/landing/taking off using auto-pilot is also a robot. Is a washing machine that senses its' load and adjusts the water accordingly, washes and then dries the clothes, is that a robot? I don’t know. I can’t remember the name of the person in question, but one of the early pioneers of robotics is quoted as having said, “I’m not sure what a robot is, but I know one when I see one.” [origin of quote unkown]

DTT: but that definition can be applied across disciplines, right? For example, “I don’t really know how to define art, but I know it when I see it.” "I don’t know how to define literature but I know it when I see it."

MC: True, that’s a true statement. And robots certainly cross boundaries.

DTT: So how would one define at what point a machine might be considered a robot?

MC: Usually by virtue of its' ability to sense aspects of its environment for the purposes of making decisions and then acting within that environment. So there’s an element in the way a lot of machines mimic or amplify or have the capacity to extend what we would consider capabilities of the human body, or perhaps even the animal body. But robotics to me include the ability for that machine to act autonomously. But then you can ask the question, is a house with a thermostat a robot? And some would say yes.

DTT: Q2 | So how do robots relate to your life?

You’ve given examples where you immediately went inside the Museum collection and then you went into more domestic or popular applications of robotics, so how do you feel like they affect your life? Are they separate or is there overlap between your personal, your professional and [the way you encounter] robotic experiences?

MC: Well my robotic experiences tend to relate to my tendency, which is both an occupation and a pre-occupation, to think about the nature of the world. So, I’m inclined to think of robots as philosophical toys and speculative objects. But they’re also practical items in the world. I don’t have a robotic vacuum cleaner, but I do have a washing machine that is pretty smart, but I don’t know if it’s robotic smart. When I fly in an airplane, I’ve been told that the very bumpy landings are the pilot doing the obligatory mandatory landings that they have to do once/month to stay in check; and the smooth ones are the auto-pilot.

DTT: Who told you that?

MC: I can’t remember. [DTT laughs] I might even have made it up, as is my want. I’ve never been that interested [in wanting] a companion robot...but I do marvel at robotic systems that do make their way into the world. [T]he UTS library down the road now has a robotic system, or stack, basically. I’ve been shown that and I know that there are hospitals now with robotic delivery systems to deliver equipment (not babies, relax) and supplies for rooms. You can order something up and these 'things' will come along in the corridor. The other thing with regards to robots are discussions with my son Clarrie, who sent me fantastic little animation on YouTube which was a discussion about the implication of robotics, but it was done from the perspective of horses in the 19th-century. These horses are having a conversation and one of them is saying to the other, “no, it’ll be great! We’ll just be able to hang out in the paddock, we won’t have to do all our dreary work, we’ll just be able to sort of enjoy ourselves.” ...I think the suggestion there is that we are doing ourselves and workers of the world a big disservice…

DTT:...in removing ourselves from the actual doing process?

MC: We shouldn’t kid ourselves that robots and technology aren’t actually just taking our jobs and then what will happen to us? What happened to horses?

DTT: they’re put out to pasture…

MC:…or [sent to] the glue factory.

DTT: Ok, when I asked you to write this chapter with me and we started thinking about previous exhibitions involving robotics, I actually didn’t feel like we had really curated robotics, more what I would consider art, or objects that start with art in mind and the implication of those materials [used] might be engineering or might be some sort of other interactive engagement. But for me, it always starts and ends with art. I know that with you, your mind would go across disciplines immediately, right away, because of the nature of your work and the nature of my approach to your work. So, you mentioned a few things to me and I just wondered if you could talk to them a little bit. I guess the question is:

Q3 | what [past] exhibitions come to mind when I asked you about this chapter?

MC: As I recall, I reminded you about Stelarc’s Articulated Head and I would add to that the other installation he did with the rhumbas [DTT: and Erin Gee?] no, with the ipad screens with his face on it and there was a little bit of social robotic interaction so the robots would talk to each other or talk to the kids in some sort of weird, mumbly Stelarc voice <Swarming Heads>. And I also mentioned and reminded you that you had curated the Experimenta exhibition that had gone into ISEA2013 here at the Museum and that included Wade Marynowsky’s … Acconci Robot, which was one of the hightlights despite [it's appearance] as a robot. Essentially it was a box, a packing crate on it’s own floor. In contrast to his quite elaborately decorated crinolines that were so sort of overtly spectacular. [DTT: yes they were quite overly feminine and spectacular…quite different to Acconci Robot…]

…it was just a packing crate [but] it did beg the question and was intriguing in and of itself. And of course every now and then there would be a scream of delighted amazement and sometimes fear when people approached the robot and tried to look in the little holes and work out what it was, and then turned around to walk away and that’s when the packing crate would then follow the participant [DTT: on wheels, that’s right].  It was sort of like something out of Dr. Who, but beautifully done and a lovely piece of art, particularly from the viewpoint of this Museum. It’s appeal was in the experience. It was contemplative in the experience, it was intriguing. It didn’t require art appreciation or an art history degree to understand it, approach it or engage with it as a piece of work.

DTT: …and it was also a recogniseable object, we’ve got lots of packing crates around the Museum.

MC: Yes, for us it was very accessible, delightful and appealing across the board. I think it did provoke a sense of wonder. Those were the two I mentioned.

DTT: With the Stelarc one I was particularly interested because Stelarc is a sort of cybernetic wonder of an artist, isn’t he? I think I saw something recently on Facebook where he considers himself a cyborg. There’s an article written about him and another [artist] who has a microphone/camera attached to his brain. And they both consider themselves cyborgs.

MC: Well I think Stelarc would consider us all to be cyborgs…

DTT: because of the extension of our electronics.

MC: Well that, and you’ve got your glasses on and our entire identities are made up of us + technology.

DTT: [Our reality] is augmented.

MC: Yes, right. So when he was doing that particular work [The Articulated Head] and he was very interested in cyborgs and cyborg-ism. He’s clearly still hoping to wire up the ear he’s had implanted in his arm. But go on, you were telling me about Stelarc.

DTT: Well the reason I brought this up and I was happy you mentioned these two examples is because the way they came to the Museum was different. [T]hey came to a similar platform but Stelarc’s Articulated Head came through the Engineering Excellence Award and Wade Marynowsky’s Acconci Robot came through an arts festival, so I just wondered if you could talk a little bit about that in terms of the Museum’s interest across platforms.

MC: It was interesting...in fact I was interested when [Stelarc] just had the projection of The Thinking Head. That was a beautiful work, and one of the best chatbots you’ll see...because somebody with Stelarc’s imagination and sensibility comes in and makes what would otherwise be a research chatbot that’s interesting and curious into something magnificent. This is because Stelarc managed to invest the character with his own personality and load the knowledge base of the chatbot with interesting things that Stelarc likes to think about.

I was very interested in that work and I remember speaking to someone who was acting as an agent for him and basically it was too expensive for us to take at the time. But I would have loved that work, but it: a) wasn’t available to us at the time and: b) I knew that I would have had a job at that particular time to convince the Museum to take it [early 2000s]. Actually the reason I wanted it [The Thinking Head] was because it was spectacular, it would have had a huge presence, it would have helped my cause.

DTT: was it digital?

MC: it was digital and it was just a projection, but it would have been an easy sell into an environment where there was a certain level of antipathy towards artworks because of the historical split between what we do and what the galleries do. And yet, as a sort of comment on artificial intelligence, which is a subject we were willing to talk about, it was more interesting than any of the things we could stick in showcases and have the curator [me] write a label about. So I looked at the possibility of getting it but it was too expensive for what I was allowed to buy at the time.

So, basically Engineering Excellence is a program we run every year, the Institution of Engineers, or Engineers Australia as they are now known, do their annual award program in Sydney and we would take 5 or 6 of the best projects that we are easily able to display. Every year we put them on, and one year, in 2009/10, the MARCs Auditory Labs/Institute was doing this work with Stelarc...which was a natural language work. There were 2 tasks, one was improving the natural language processes of the chatbot, the other one was looking at the way in which a robot can interact with a crowd of people by basically speaking with the crowd and then picking a particular person to concentrate on in that crowd to speak to.

Stelarc had been complaining for some time that what his Thinking Head lacked was any embodiment.  So this beautiful big projection of his head on any wall, depending on how good your projector was, was a fantastic piece, but he was particularly disturbed by the lack of embodiment. He thought that something was missing. So his idea was to provide that body for his Thinking Head, so what he did was mount a screen on the end of an industrial robot, so it was a bizarre looking thing, it was beautiful in its own Stelarc-ian way. And it was part of a much bigger international collaboration of works around artificial intelligence interface design and robotics. They had the funding, they did the research and they entered into the Engineering Excellence awards and it won the Research category and we were more than delighted to bring it in [to the Museum].

Furthermore, without asking them, in fact they asked us, if they could use the audience as candidates for research as part of the exhibition. Essentially [they] would like to monitor the interaction between [our] visitors and the robot and use the data gathered that way to iterate the robot.

DTT: this is starting to sound familiar…

MC: yes, and of course we were delighted to say yes because it supported and came out of idea we had put forward in the Beta_space project. It had been done before in Beta_Space and that it was a working model that somebody was bringing it to us without us having to propose it to them. So that robot coming in was kind of the highlight of the Engineering Excellence awards.

DTT: did it win that year?

MC: it didn’t win the main award, the Bradfield Award, but it won the Research Award...They award the prizes a year before they go on display and we choose the top 5 or 6 and we always show the Bradfield Award. This one winning the Research Award just added a much richer and more exciting element to the Engineering Excellence Awards which could, depending on what had happened, be a little bit didactic in its realisation and expression. This was a chance for it to be more expressive and it was great. Furthermore, MARCs Lab found that they were able to utilise it in a public space to further their research, so they asked to extend it, which we were happy to do so it spent another year in here, which had never happened before in the Engineering Excellence Awards.

DTT: fantastic.

MC: and it was a lovely example in which an engineering project, which is also an art project is operating in a public space as a public spectacle, but then it’s actually a research project and our visitors who are here, essentially become participants in engineering research. And in that respect they are also helping us to prototype our model for how a Museum of this nature might operate in the Future, or from now.

DTT: and we’ve written about this before, haven’t we?

MC: yes. So we’ve got Wade’s and we’ve got Stelarc’s as examples of [transdisciplinary practice], of course there’s many others we didn’t take because of the expense or suitability of the space to set them up…for example Mari Velonaki’s work [Diamandini] didn’t fit in [for ISEA2013] because we didn’t have a suitable space and that’s a shame.

DTT: Q4 |Are there any future exhibitions on the MAAS roster including robots or elements of robotics?

MC: yes there are. So MAAS is a participant in a successful research application with the University of NSW Art and Design and the Singapore Art and Science Museum. And the subject of that research is looking at the benefits of art/science collaborations in Museum Spaces…the 3rd space [we call it]. And Lizzie Muller is a principle…or is it Jill Bennett is the principle on the project, but Lizzie is driving it. We are participants, so we are hoping to do an exhibition that starts in Singapore and comes to this Musuem [MAAS] after that.

DTT: That’s a bit of a trend actually, bringing something from China to exhibit in Sydney, I know people who are doing that for VIVID [MAB’16].

MC: And that’s about robotics and we’ve been thinking about what we want to say about robotics on the side, but it is about art and science. Primarily the work of artists that we will be concerned with.

DTT: so it’s works of art realised in robotics?

MC: yes.

DTT: all of them?

MC: I think so. There might be things that aren’t realised in robotics, but rather comment on robotics. I saw a number of things at ISEA2015 as things to watch. It’ll be a few years until we get them in, but there was some lovely stuff there. 

DTT: how would that be realised as an exhibition here? So it would start in Singapore and then it would tour here?

MC: they want to do an exhibition about robotics in Singapore, but it is about art. It’s at an art/science museum and it’s an exhibition about robotics. It might be about artists and scientists working in the same space. But it’s being evaluated by this research group for the benefits associated with both acting together [humans and robots] in the 3rd space, the Beta_space, so it’s around creating a space in which the public participate.

DTT: And again it’s Lizzie, that’s fantastic. Anything else?

MC: Well in fact we’re about to replace ISAAC after all these years. SO we’ve bought a robot by the name of BAXTER.

DTT: And what does he do?

MC: BAXTER has 2 arms and he has a face on a screen, but it’s a fake face, it’s really just screen eyes to provide communication and familiarity. He has a 360-degree camera on his head that sits above the screen. He has 2 arms that can be programmed to be positioned…

DTT: so he can be touched? That’s different from ISAAC because ISAAC was always behind glass…

MC: ISAAC was behind a glass showcase that when unlocked shut ISAAC down, because you didn’t want to be in the showcase when ISAAC was alive.

DTT: so he was more unpredictable?

MC: That’s right. This one was made more human friendly, able to detect a person and not knock it for a six. And part of the programming, if you want to program an arm, you can grab the arms and move them where you like, and these actions will become part of the programming.

DTT: How is that recorded? Through the camera? Or is it a Kinect or something similar..? Are the gestures recorded by image recognition?

MC: No, the gestures are recorded by movement, so you take the arms and say, I want these to move from here to here, and then you have to hit a button and tell it to record and then you can sequence. So you can introduce into your programming and sequencing gestures that you actually take the arm through and record.

DTT: so you become a choreographer in a way…

MC: it could be considered choreographic, I think idea is that your dance could also be a production line, packaging or producing your vision through pattern recognition to notice when a particular piece of product is a turkey.

DTT: Oh so you can interfere then in the machine’s process where you couldn’t before.

MC: Also, you don’t have to program with code, you can program with movement. It’s got code as well, but has an easier interface. So BAXTER will go in where ISAAC has gone, and BAXTER will perform the same sort of role that ISAAC did. ISAAC was an industrial robot that danced, played a game with you, that purported to demonstrate some of the things that robots bring to the table to make them valuable as machines, or brings their utilitarian advantage to the table. So robots are strong, robots are fast, robots can be very accurate, robots don’t get bored, robots aren’t disobedient, robots are adaptable [DTT: they don’t tire out], that’s right…what else can they do?

DTT: What do you think about [coming] exhibitions like 'Out of Hand', which have robotic elements but they’re used in a design functionality? It touches on what you were saying before about robots replacing humans in the making function.

MC: The 'Out of Hand' story is an interesting one because it’s about digital manufacturing. In digital manufacturing you have an extrusive head…you have an additive and a subtractive function. So robots are a subtractive manufacture because you can put a tool on the head of a robot and then you can define where your object is using a CAD program , and then the robot uses the tool that cuts away everything that isn’t a part of the CAD design. Of course it’s slightly more complicated than that…somebody had to decide exactly where to cut from at an additive level. And robots just become the apparatus that places the head of your printer where it needs to be so that you don’t have to build a big [construction] plant.

At the moment, 3D-printers are structures that have an ability to move a head through X,Y,Z co-ordinates but you have to build a structure to build the 'thing'…which is fine for little things. But if you want to build a house, you have to build as structure bigger than a house [to realise it] and there’s something impractical about that.

DTT: But it’s happening isn’t it? In China?

MC: Well yes, I think its in the early stages of not very good. There’s a design error in there. And robots will replace those big structures because robots are smaller, can be collapsed and taken to a site, and then once you’ve learned how to locate accurately in space, you can have your robot take your extrusion head to the point in space where it needs to be. So robots will replace huge bits of plant [the building structure to house the house building]. And in fact, even on a desktop level that’s happening because robots give you beautiful X,Y,Z co-ordinates.

DTT: everytime?

MC: Well the problem at the moment is the structure holds the head perfectly in space. Robots do have slight location issues, but they’re working on those. [DTT: it’s kind of beautiful in a way [the errors].

MC: So, it’s establishing your origin and making sure you are returning to your virtual Cartesian plane, right? You stick to it and don’t get pulled off course. Large 3D structures do that more easily. Robots are operating in the world and you have to make sure that world is calibrated to your virtual structure. Does that all make sense?

DTT: It does. Q5 | So how do you or how have you seen robotics affecting our culture?

You’ve said a few things to me before in answer to this question…you see them as generators of culture, as participants, as automata, and then you talked a little bit about their predecessors this morning.

MC: Well, when people define robots, they tend to think of them as industrial tools and they go: they’re strong, they’re accurate, they’re fast, they’ve got incredible repeatability, they don’t get bored, they don’t get tired, they’re not disobedient [DTT: they don’t call in sick]. Right, those are the benefits. There are also other things that robots do and I think that relates specifically to their ability to enhance our culture, or pose questions about our culture and our humanity, and the nature of humanity.

The predecessor to robots are automata…records in ancient Greece and in various mythologies there’s various stories of human-created life being so technologically advanced that they are essentially a life form. There’s the story of the Nightengale, and of Pinocchio, who was invested with life by some kind of magical means, and then there’s the Golum, where you can take clay and imbue it with life. All of these suggest some sort of creation complex that exists in us somewhere.

DTT: Can I just ask you a really specific question in terms of that comment? [MC: Mm-hmm] Do you see authenticity as a factor in terms of a creation complex? So sometimes robots come out as machines and they’re very industrial, almost, they’re very different then humanoid robots. Humanoid robots tend to err on the side of the female. There’s a servitude aspect, whether it’s sexual, or customer service or companionship, for example. I don’t know how many women are ordering male robots for example…whereas that authenticity factor within your creation complex comment is an interesting point to me.

MC: well, I mean there’s definitely a sort of desire to sort of create things that are obedient and do your bidding and clearly there’s some interesting and strange and not so wonderful stuff happening where men who appear to be struggling in this department create machines with female forms.

DTT: well I am thinking specifically of a professor in Japan who Mari [Velonaki] works with, Professor Ishiguro who created a robot that looks exactly like him and then he also made Gemenoid F who works in museums and who’s also a prototype for the sex industry as well. SO he’s looking at himself as a platform for contemplation, as you are suggesting, and then he’s looking at what appears to me to be the role of females as an Other. And they are so specifically authentic to human form.

MC: Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro is fantastic and he’s definitely going for an authentic human form. I’ve struggled with robots that are exactly like humans because in a way, robots that show their workings and show their roboticness, I think we’re at a stage where those 'things' are more intriguing and more interesting. His forms become interesting on another level because of the problem that he’s attempting to deal with. When he came out here and spoke at the Museum quite recently I had quite a long conversation with him. And he said that, “my task now is that I made a replica robot of my daughter as a news reader.” Now we know here that news readers in Japan are highly sexualised [DTT: well women are in general] Yes, but the newsreader occupies a special place, and he produced one of their most famous news readers. But where he’s working with in attempting authenticity are taking him into the Uncanny Valley. So when I spoke to him, he was saying that his research agenda had now been set by his wife. So that after he produced a robot copy of his daughter with skin and expression and everything, his wife told him that his job was to rescue their daughter from the creepy Uncanny Valley. I mean he’s a very interesting person who’s playing with everyone’s [idea of robotics], very much an artist as well as an engineer and roboticist. And he’s done that great robot of himself and there are beautiful pictures of him, you can tell when you look closely which is which, but you can also ask people which is which and then go, are you sure? And they go ummmmm…and second guess themselves. [DTT: they have to check.] It’s still creepy, it’s still uncanny.

DTT: But it’s not creepy to everyone. Do you think it’s uncanny to most people?

MC: Yes. I think the Uncanny Valley, identified some time ago, still exists. The closer you get to mimicking actual lifeforms the creepier it is. But Ishiguro insists that it’s because we’re not close enough and because of the discrepancy that still exists between the machine and the real person. And he says he thinks we’re really close. And there’s a famous curve for the Uncanny Valley, and things are more interesting and cute and familiar when they are quite distinct from us. You can tell it’s a fake, even if it does quite amazing things. But the closer you get, as you get very near [to replicating a more human machine], you’re confused into thinking that it’s real. And then tiny little glitches in the matrix make you go…whaaaa? But he reckons you can get to the other side.

DTT: So you don’t think that authentic experience is here yet?

MC: Um, well no. And it goes to a question, do we need them to be authentic? [DTT: that is my question.] And why do we make them authentic? So I mentioned before that I’m interested in the development of technology, and the idea that anything that is an extension of ourselves is an aspect of our utility of human beings. So a hammer is an extension of our arm [DTT: and force and strength] that’s right and glasses are an extension of our eyes [DTT note: and perception and depth], and a telescope is an extension of our eye and all that sort of stuff.

Charles Babbage for instance was interested in extending other aspects of our capacity. He wanted our ability to perform arithmetic extended. He wanted to extended it out of the space where we get bored and tired doing it and make mistakes, and that’s what he found was happening in the production of algorithmic tables. So he wanted a machine to do it. But he didn’t build a machine that looked like a human being that took a piece of paper and a pencil and set up a table to do the method of finite differences and added along the diagonals to produce the next value of the function that you were working on, the way I would use the method of finite differences to generate successive values of a polynomial function. He conceived of a machine that abstracted that bit out of the human being, the bit that he needed, and designed that...not the bit that could sit at a table and use pattern recognition to determine pencil marks on paper.

DTT: so this want [to replicate humans] came later, or again?

MC: he worked out and abstracted what he needed and didn’t build a complete replica of himself. He knew what he needed to extract and as we’ve gone on, in fact that was the nature of [the development of] technology. Part of what we know how to do is extract the essential bit [that is missing] and take it out. It’s interesting when you think of researchers over time and how they look at how animals move and if you look at the automata builders, they didn’t build those as machines, they built them as marvels. They built them as philosophical toys, as they were sometimes known. They were speculative and robots are speculative too.

There are a couple of streams of robotic thought and some of them are very speculative. Some are testing ideas and even in Australia there are some great ideas. Now, in Australia we’re looking at Bio-mimicry and there are whole areas of research for all kinds of animals, snakes, flies, crabs, fish, eels, birds…because we’re interested in understanding the movement and understanding they have with the possibility/potential to use them, to apply them in the world to our own advantage. I understand that a roboticist worked out how flies fly, where it was previously not understood how the wing-shape to body ratio wasn’t feasible in normal aerodynamic terms. But roboticists worked out what the movement is because they wanted to build a fly. So they built dragonflies and flies. Why do they build them? Who funds research into funding robotic bugs?

DTT: the military?

MC: [Yes]...for the intelligence side of things. Because they’re literally interested in putting flies on walls. [DTT: that’s fantastic {the connection}] In Australia though, we had our own researcher working with animals in the late 19th-century producing a lot of models of motion. And he was looking at animals for forms of locomotion. He probably wouldn’t have said this himself, but what he was reasoning over many millennia of evolution had produced designs in animals that gave incredible capability in the world. He thought perhaps we should study them in order to think about alternative forms of locomotion for our machines. I think if you look at the Industrial Revolution there is this ability to abstract what you need to do to get a particular task done. But this guy was wondering if there are other ways to explore different ways to move. He was interested in birds…this was Lawrence Hargrave. He wanted to fly because he loved birds, but was also interested in fish and eels because of trachoidal motion. And he thought there might be ships that moved through the ocean more like giant eels. He was sort of ridiculed for that. And a lot of design and science based on animism was poo-pooed in the early 20th-c because of some of the spectacular and hilarious fails of people trying to build planes with flapping wings and stuff.

DTT: Isn’t there still a festival in Australia that still encourages that?

MC: Probably. But basically they just didn’t have enough insight. Modern robotics now is looking at everything because they want to know that stuff. Where are we?

DTT:  I just wanted to end with this thing you said this morning which is that robots are extremely transdisciplinary things, they don’t fit neatly anywhere… Q6 | how do we decide what to build and how to extract?

MC: I think right back at the beginning is that we think of robots in advanced engineering terms but we forget that automata were produced by people who were genius clock mechanists, not because they did anything purposeful, other then provide objects of wonder. The speculation is really what does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to have agency? And to be human…and to be all of those things? And now with robotics, think of Mari’s work with the chairs [DTT: FishBird]…what does it mean to watch 2 wheelchairs fall in love? Robotics is becoming social so it is becoming cultural. Robotics is a fantastic and fascinating art form to me. [It is] often mistaken by traditionalists and assessed for their sculptural merit, when in fact that’s not the medium. They are more performative then aesthetic.

DTT: so in that way it’s more the idea over the aesthetic.

MC: Yes it’s about the performance, and asks, what does the performance mean? And it’s the interchange and the exchange and a performance is about an exchange with the audience.

DTT: That’s fantastic. Thank you. We are now closing the interview at 11:04am.


MC: That gives us a fair bit.








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