T H E   A R T   O F   E X T R E M E   R O B O T I C S

Rhizome Feb 24 2002

P r o g r a m m e:

Eric Paulos The Threat of Irrelevance
Christian Ristow Altering One's State: Personal Effectiveness Enhancement by way of Temporary Transposition of Self into Robots
Kevin Binkert The Intersection of Creativity and Commerce
Simon Penny Embodied Interaction and Procedural Aesthetics
Mark Pauline Manufacturing Alien Technologies

O v e r v i e w :

Machines are, in theory, designed to be efficient, convenient, non-intrusive. They blend into our environments seamlessly as non-threatening and often even aesthetically pleasing tools. Machines are everywhere: a ubiquitous part of the enhanced environment. Some are autonomous, while others are tightly coupled with the human body: prosthetics, communication devices, even jewelry . This gentle encroachment, combined with ongoing research toward machine sentience, forces us to consider machines outside the context of mere tools. They are part of our social, emotional, artistic, and even spiritual context.

California has been ground zero for machine art and robot performance. Silicon Valley and Hollywood, de-commissioned military bases, a technically skilled volunteer pool and access to discarded equipment have created a fertile breeding ground for a virulent mechanical 'arts and crafts' scene with a hacker ethic. Technologies such as augmented reality, increasingly versatile and robust sensors and actuators, computer vision, artificial life, and virtual reality are appropriated and subverted by these artists in order to experiment with alternative scenarios for extreme human-machine interaction.

This month at Rhizome, Karen Marcelo and Maribeth Back present The Art of Extreme Robotics. The featured artists explore inter-machine and human-machine interactions through robotic art and performance. Their work in extreme machine conceptualization, creation, and operation allows us to examine the effects of alternative modes for integration of machines in our own lives with visceral immediacy.

Eric Paulos and EIU (Experimental Interaction Unit)
The Threat of Irrelevance

Eric Paulos and EIU, as developers of the first privately owned electromagnetic weapon and anonymous biological pathogen dispersion system, reaffirm their dedication to researching the most vital elements of future human interaction systems. Their expertise, knowledge, and rapid adaptation skills have been deployed in an effort to design new systems and tools to combat and intimately connect with the future. Challenging times bring new urgency to these parlous projects which will be discussed tonight.

Christian Ristow
Altering One's State: Personal Effectiveness Enhancement by way of Temporary Transposition of Self into Robots

Christian Ristow discusses the general concept of the transposition of one's self into the robot by way of radio operation, pointing out how this simulated transposition is greatly augmented by the reality of the situation, and, by extension, posit the supremacy of the operator experience in a performance setting. The satisfaction experienced by a machine operator in the context of a performance is vicariously experienced by the audience in a way that other media is not. Christian discusses each of his robots in this context and how these considerations infuence the concept and design of these robots.

Kevin Binkert
The Intersection of Creativity and Commerce

Kevin Binkert discusses the intersection of creativity and commerce.

Simon Penny
Embodied Interaction and Procedural Aesthetics

Simon Penny's art practice concerns embodied interaction with sensor driven, quasi-intelligent systems which behave as semi autonomous agents or groups of semi-autonomous agents. He discusses procedural aesthetics that imbue machines with non-linear, event-driven behavior based on sensing and responding to its environment thus physically engaging the audience or user with an embodied interaction with his art.

Mark Pauline
Manufacturing Alien Technologies

Mark Pauline gives a talk full of contemptuous ridicule for the notion of Technology as an alienating force, combined with an unreconstructed epiphany on blind allegiance to total technical immersion.

A b o u t   t h e   A r t i s t s:


E r i c   P a u l o s

Eric Paulos received his PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley. His scientific, artistic, and social interests revolve around robotics and internet based telepresence. In 1996 he founded the Experimental Interaction Unit (EIU) which developed the I-Bomb, the first privately owned electromagnetic weapon system and soon after Dispersion, an anonymous biological pathogen vending machine (soon to be considered a crime under California Assembly Bill #74 2002).


C h r i s t i a n   R i s t o w

Christian Ristow's high-octane robotic performance art has been featured at numerous venues around the US. His commercial robotic work has been featured in Stephen Spielberg's A.I. and Bicentennial Man, among other films and commercials. He holds a B.A. in Architecture from Columbia University and worked for several years with the San Francisco based robotic performance group Survival Research Laboratories.


K e v i n   B i n k e r t

Kevin Binkert is a San Francisco based inventor, machinist, and pyro-expressionist. Recent experiments include: breaking the sound barrier with the 460 V8 powered Spinner which put the Austrian air force on red alert during a performance, the creation of a 40 foot tall Flame Tornado, and numerous mechanical/explosive collaborations with Survival Research Laboratories. He is currently a Spirit of America (SOA) land speed record team member. Kevin owns and operates Standard Metal Products (SMP), a San Francisco based machine shop. He recently escaped town for a brief stint as an ape in a burlesque show.


S i m o n   P e n n y

Simon Penny is an award winning Australian artist, theorist and teacher. His art practice consists of interactive and robotic installations in the US, Australia and Europe. Recent projects include the autonomous robotic artwork Petit Mal and a collaborative machine vision-telerobotic project ('Bedlam') with Bill Vorn of Concordia University, Montreal. Simon is Professor of Arts and Engineering at UC Irvine where he is establishing a new graduate program in Arts, Computation and Engineering.


M a r k   P a u l i n e

Mark Pauline is the originator of the concept of large scale machine performance beginning in 1978 with the founding of Survival Research Laboratories. He has staged over 50 machine performances in the US, Asia, and Europe as director of SRL. The most recent performance was in Berkeley, CA on 15 December 2001. Pauline constructs and designs dozens of large, complex robots and machines for use in these performances. Training and supervising the efforts of over 200 assistants in the art of machine performance.


M e e t   t h e   M o d e r a t o r s

Karen Marcelo and Maribeth Back have collaborated on a variety of art and research projects since meeting in a VRML/artificial life SIG in 1996. Their work includes collaboration on Biota.org's Nerve Garden, exhibited at SIGGRAPH 97 and Ars Electronica in 1998. As researchers at Xerox PARC, they worked on embedded systems, wearable computing, and innovative reading devices.

More detailed artist bios here