Day 2, Stream 2


Petra Gemeinbock: College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Australia


Wade Marynowsky: Independent artist, Australia

Paul Granjon: Z Productions, Wales, UK

Elizabeth Demaray: Rutgers University, US

Toby Gifford: Griffith University, Australia

Andrew Brown: Griffith University, Australia



Wade Marynowsky The Acconci robot

Wade Marynowsky’s ‘The Acconci Robot’ expands upon his previous investigations into performative robotics. The artist’s robotic works combine artificial life and live art, creating a system of programmed parameters that allow the work to continually unfold and evolve.

‘The Acconci Robot’ is an interactive robot that follows you unawares. Appearing as a shipping crate of minimal design, the robot is mute and motionless as a viewer approaches. But when the audience member turns away, and starts to leave, the robot begins to follow. If the audience member turns to look back at the robot, it stops in its tracks. In this cheeky and playful work, the artist inverts our expectations of the direct engagement and reciprocal exchange typical of interactivity, by creating a work that only responds when the audience is most disengaged from it.

The work draws inspiration from a 1969 performance work, ‘Follow piece’ by Vito Acconci, in which the artist followed unsuspecting individuals in an urban setting as far as he could. Acconci’s investigations of the body in public space are recontextualised by Marynowsky in a gallery context, re-examining interaction and audience participation by drawing parallels between sixty’s conceptual performance art and art in the age of interactivity.


Paul Granjon The Biting Machine project, a performance art experiment in human-robot interaction

In this paper the author, a performance and visual artist, explores the co-evolution of humans and machines drawing on the description and analysis of his Biting Machine project. This is a performance by a human and man-made machine loosely based on Joseph Beuys’ I Like America and America Likes Me, 1974, in which the artist shared a New York gallery space with a wild coyote. The Biting Machine Project aims to produce a durational performance with an autonomous mobile robot that will take the role occupied by the coyote in Beuys’ piece. The coyote symbolised an instinctual dimension of human life, threatened by industrialisation and the capitalist way of life. In opposition, the Biting Machine robot can be seen as the product of technique, an artificial creature fully programmed by humans. The symbolic dimensions of the performances and the question of continuity between human-animal and the artificial are explored, with a detailed section on the embodiment of the machine. A techno-scientific background for the project is provided through a selection of references with several examples of human-robot interaction from the fields of robotic science, commercial toys and robots made by artists. The behavioural and technical characteristics of the Biting Machine as well as production considerations are described. In the last section the conceptual and symbolic dimension of the Biting Machine project is refined, and the validity of experimenting at the crossroads of art and techno-science is examined. The article concludes on the notion of ‘apprivoisement’ as a criteria for a rewarding Biting Machine project.


Elizabeth Demaray & Qingze Zou: The IndaPlant Project: An Act of Trans-Species Giving

The IndaPlant Project is an act of trans-species giving designed to facilitate the free movement and metabolic function of ordinary houseplants. Now in the first year of a two-year production cycle, this initiative is dedicated to creating a community of light-sensing robotic vehicles, each of which is able to respond to the needs of a potted plant by moving it around in three-dimensional space in search of sunlight and water.

The initial IndaPlant unit currently carries out basic sun- and water-seeking functions and is wired through an Arduino board. It is chargeable via solar power and can perform motion planning to independently avoid obstacles during movement.

IndaPlant is a collaboration among the departments of Fine Art, Ecology & Evolution, and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Rutgers University. It was initially conceived by the artist Elizabeth Demaray to be an installation in a domestic environment, in which a community of robotically controlled houseplants could share information with one another or, conversely, compete for resources. Demaray states, “My primary interest in creating this piece lies in the poetic implications of turning an immobile houseplant—which is completely dependent upon human largesse and care—into a free agent which, depending upon either programming or emergent properties, could become a potentially cooperative or competitive entity.”

The emergent properties of a company of autonomous, light-seeking houseplants will be fascinating to both observe and program. Of particular interest to the IndaPlant work group is the possibility of creating a self-governing population of data sharers. In this scenario, the environmental data collected by one IndaPlant could be communicated between members of the community and be used for group decision making.


Toby Gifford & Andrew Brown Autonomy, Autopoiesis, Prosthesis: Cybernetics in art

From cyberpunks to cyborgs, autonomous robots to prosthetic limbs, cellular automata to chatterbots; artists and writers have co-opted cybernetic concepts in myriad ways. In turn, through interpretation in artworks – with concomitant artistic license – cybernetics as a field of study has been reviewed, re-contextualised and re-imagined around a core theme of extensible homeostatic systems. This article surveys manifestations of cybernetics in art, particularly regarding the variety of relationships between human and machine represented, drawing parallels with 20th century developments in art theory, media theory, and more broadly Dewey’s pragmatic theory of aesthetic experience and Heidegger’s philosophy of technology.

Co-opting Rowe’s taxonomy of interactive music systems, we classify cybernetic artworks along a spectrum of autonomy. At one extreme lies the autonomous robot, epitomising the modernist aesthetic. At the other extreme: prothesis, and the manifesto of extensible humanity, which finds uncomfortable bedfellows in Italian Futurism and Transhumanism. Between these poles lies a cornucopia of autopoietic human-machine partnerships; problematising, contesting, deconstructing and subverting boundaries between artist, artwork, and audience.

Cybernetics, viewed as epistemology, has been proffered by various theorists as a panacea for reconciling vexing dichotomies: positivism vs. aetheticism, science vs. art, Cartesianism vs. embodiment. We contextualise cybernetic art in this intellectual mêlée, and discuss the role it has played in shaping contemporary science, technology and culture.