Exploring our desire to exist in both virtual and physical worlds, and the steady integration of humans with technology, Robots and Avatars brings together artworks that find physical limbs rendered into pixels through the act of touch, collaborative landscapes stretching beyond the confines of popular gaming, and wearable technology that guides and confounds.
Robots and Avatars is an exhibition inspired by relationships between virtual reality and the physical world. FACT has co-curated the show with body>data>space, an interdisciplinary design collective based in East London who engage in creating fascinating connections between performance, architecture, new media and virtual worlds. The exhibition presents us with the potential for how computer simulated environments and the real world can blur and how artists can use technology to make fascinating and stimulating artworks
The premise for this exhibition lends itself well to interactive art and it was no surprise that the most easily accessible interactive artworks were the most popular with the public. For me, ADA by Karina Smigla-Bobinski, was by far the most fun and clever piece of art I’ve seen for a long time. It is a huge helium filled membrane like globe, with charcoal pieces attached at regular intervals. Referred to as a ‘she’, with her own free will, ADA floats around the room drawing on the walls and ceiling with her charcoal sticks. The viewer can interact with ADA by pushing and spinning her into the walls and together beautiful abstract drawings are created, made up of Cy Twombly style dots and dashes. Some may say the obvious choice, but I think this artwork is truly inspired in concept and practice alike and a must see (or do).
Another of the artworks that really stood out was Base 8, an installation by Chris Sugrue which is based on a 19th Century theatre trick which was used to create the illusion of phantoms or spirits on the stage. The fact that I can’t explain how it happens, is part of the beauty of the artwork, but when you place your hand into the rectangular structure, abstract geometric shapes appear and can be manipulated to move around and change. It memorises you and is almost therapeutic, but in turn the images it creates, although time limited, could be artworks themselves.
Other work in the exhibition includes RoboVox 2006, a talking Robot which stands up for those people whose voice gets lost in a crowd and invites you to text your thoughts and views (no doubt only those which are fit for public consumption) which he will say aloud. I have to say that with some of the other artworks in the exhibition I wasn’t always sure what was meant to be happening or if they were in fact working correctly. I’d probably say that most of these deserve a bit of time to understand and experiment and this can be said for Visions of our Communal Dreams, which explores blending the physical and virtual worlds by presenting ‘portals’ in different parts of the building that connect with each other and show different ways of connecting the viewer with a virtual reality. I used a portal to explore a beautiful computer simulated environment as a virtual person who could fly – why would you chose to walk in a world where anything is possible? It felt a bit surreal, like a one of those flying dreams.
I’d like to say this is artwork for techies but in actual fact it’s probably just for a younger generation for whom the experience of virtual reality in computer games like Second Life is nothing unusual. What the exhibition touches on is where developments in technology are heading and the intriguing possibilities for how our virtual creations can and no doubt will integrate with real life. If nothing else this show is fun and fascinating.
Robots and Avatars continus untill 27 May vist http://www.fact.co.uk/projects/robots-and-avatars for more info