Do Robots Dream Of Electric Art?
Curated by João Pinharanda
September 28th > November 25th, 2007
10 AM > 01 AM, closes Mondays
Fundação EDP, Museu da Electricidade
Three moving-head robots are aparently carving a drawing on the wall with red laser beams.
scroll down for portuguese version
Disco Wall Painting
text by João Lima Pinharanda
Three “disco” robots (of the “moving heads” variety) trace upon the grey wall the precarious outline of a human
being – probably a male.
A “disco” can, in this context, be seen as a new kind of cave, or even a “post-cave”. The darkness of the space, its
near subterranean location, the darkened walls, the play of lights, the collective rituals taking place inside it all
concur to confirm that scenographic metaphor.
On the other hand, the robots are equally beings of a new kind which seem to collaborate here in a remake: in a joint
action, they draw an ancient being that preceded them in time, a being that conceived them, a human.
And they do it by swerving from the accomplishment of the actions for which they were designed and built by that
same being: to follow the rhythms of dance music at a disco, heightening the interplay of light and darkness, sound
and noise, body and bodies.
And they do it here in anomalous conditions: continuously, without music, with no humans on the dancefloor,
combining efforts in the construction of an obsessive drawing that is in no way decorative, sophisticated or rhythmic.
The role played by these robots takes the form of a transferred regression: they are not evoking what they themselves were, but what the men who designed them were once. This piece by Miguel Soares fictionalises the appropriation, by robots, of a founding memory of humankind. That memory does not belong to them: have the beings that created them inserted it, inadvertently or unconsciously, into their programming? We do not know.
Anyway, these “created” beings have appropriated some secret file of human reminiscences which probably has survived and may always be
deciphered under all the layers of subsequent technological and digital (in)formation.
The title of this piece by Miguel Soares evokes one of the most effective projections of mankind’s fear regarding their own creations, from its Romantic incarnation as Frankenstein’s Monster to the post-modern androids of Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, 1968, where Miguel Soares found his title) and Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, 1982).
This artist’s vast body of work, which comprises installation and video along with the construction of mechanical and electronic objects, not forgetting the composition of digital images or synthesised sounds, culminates here in the most extreme of metaphors: the automata’s possibility of autonomous action and awareness has led them to resume the evolutionary cultural line of mankind, their original creators. Returning to a logic of caves as iconographic sanctuaries,
these “disco” robots paint/engrave a human image on the walls available to them. And their action is charged with the same ambiguity already described by the historians of the Palaeolithic age: the model used is not necessarily the animal used as a basis for daily sustenance; it may be the most venerated, the one whose capture does not stem from an act of physical survival but from a will to cultural endurance, aggregating the group’s identity and catalysing its social communion.
Lisbon, 12 September 2007
João Lima Pinharanda
Versão Portuguesa / Portuguese Version
A peça de Miguel Soares ficciona a apropriação, pelos robots, de uma memória matricial da humanidade. Essa
memória não lhes pertence: os seres seus criadores fizeram-na passar inadvertida ou inconscientemente para os
programas? Não sabemos. Seja como for, os seres “criados” apropriaram-se de um qualquer ficheiro secreto de
reminiscências humanas. E, regressando à lógica das cavernas como santuários iconográficos, estes robots “de
discoteca”, pintam/gravam uma esquemática imagem humana nas paredes.
A sua acção carrega-se da mesma ambiguidade detectada pelos historiadores do paleolítico: pode não ser
imediatamente o animal de que se necessita para o sustento diário aquele que se desenha; pode ser o que mais se
venera, aquele cuja captura não resulta de um acto de sobrevivência física mas de uma vontade de sobrevivência
cultural; um agregador da identidade e catalizador da comunhão social do grupo. A verdade é que se trata sempre
de evocar (antecipar ou celebrar) uma caçada.
Pintura Mural de Discoteca
Três robots “de discoteca” (do tipo moving heads) desenham na parede cinzenta a silhueta precária de um ser
humano – provavelmente do sexo masculino.
Uma discoteca pode, neste contexto, ser vista como uma gruta de novo tipo ou uma “pós-gruta”. A escuridão do
espaço, a sua localização quase subterrânea, a cor escurecida das paredes, os jogos de luz, os rituais colectivos nela
desenvolvidos concorrem para confirmar essa metáfora cenográfica.
Por outro lado, os robots são seres também de um novo tipo que igualmente parecem participar aqui num remake:
na sua acção conjunta desenham um ser antigo, que os precedeu no tempo, um ser que os concebeu, um humano. E fazem-no, desviando-se do desempenho das funções para que foram, por esse mesmo ser, projectados e construídos:
acompanhar os ritmos da música de dança de uma discoteca potenciando os jogos entre luz e escuridão, som e ruído, corpo e corpos.
E fazem-no aqui em condições anómalas: ininterruptamente, sem música, sem humanos na pista de dança, conjugando-se na construção de um desenho obsessivo que nada tem de decorativo, sofisticado ou ritmado.
O título desta obra de Miguel Soares remete para uma das mais eficazes projecções dos receios da humanidade em relação às suas próprias criações. Tal receio vem do Frankenstein romântico e passa pelos andróides pós-modernos de Philip K. Dick (”Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, 1968, de onde Miguel Soares retira o seu título)/Ridley Scott (”Blade Runner”, 1982).
A vasta obra do artista, utilizando a instalação e o vídeo, a construção de objectos, mecânicos e electrónicos, a composição de imagens digitais ou sons electrónicos culmina aqui na mais extrema metáfora: a possibilidade de autonomia de acção e consciência dos autómatos leva-os a retomar a linha cultural evolutiva da própria humanidade que os criou.
Regressando à lógica das cavernas como santuários iconográficos, estes robots “de discoteca” pintam/gravam uma imagem humana nas paredes que lhes cabem em sorte. E a sua acção carrega-se da mesma ambiguidade já detectada pelos historiadores do paleolítico: pode não ser imediatamente o animal de que se necessita para o sustento diário aquele que se desenha; pode ser o que mais se venera, aquele cuja captura não resulta de um acto de sobrevivência física mas de uma vontade de sobrevivência cultural, agregadora da identidade e catalizador da comunhão social do grupo.
Lisboa, 12 de Setembro de 2007
João Lima Pinharanda
July 22 > September 11, 2006
Cais de Embarque, Teleférico de Guimarães
this was a site specific group show that took place in a cable car in Guimaraes, north Portugal.
This cable car connects people from the city center to the sanctuary of Penha on the top of a hill.
The Timetable piece was put on the bottom station near the ticket office.
It shows the arrivals and departures to many cities and diferent countries, as if all cable cars
(and funiculars) of the world were connected in a big net.
Every 3 minutes an advertisement shows the various destinations you can go for €1.70. ”
curated by Nathalie Angles
November 15 > December 31, 2003
26 Greene street
New York, NY 10013
Sathurday (November 15th) from 4 to 6 pm, Location One inaugurates a
new gallery space, adjacent to our main gallery, which will be known as the
“Test Site.” This is our experimental studio where we will present
work-in-progress by our artists-in-residence, experiments with new technology
and discussions of all types. We are happy to initiate the Test Site with
work-in-progress by Miguel Soares (Portugal), which consists of a whimsical
sculpture, large digital-C Prints and a video piece.
2 prints from the Mosaic series: Hulk and Fighter, 2003
junk bags, motorized arm, laser pointer.
“Do androids dream of electric sheep?” -Philip K. Dick
Gustavo is a robot that has been discarded in a black garbage bag. Out of this bag extends Gustavo’s motorized arm, with a laser that is carving a drawing on the wall.
Do robots dream of being artists?
video and 3D animation
sound: “Time Zones” Negativland, Escape From Noise album/cd, Seeland Records, 1987
Time Zones is about time and size, United States versus the Soviet Union, the cold war, the use of media as a vehicle for psychological warfare and the use of computers to control the “imperfections” of men.
Time Zones was created in collaboration with Negativland during the last year, based on
their audio work from 1987.
Durst lambda prints
These images are composed from the juxtaposition of 5000 to 8000 smaller images taken from the internet.
The cover of The Hulk magazine is made out of flower and landscape images.
The Jet Fighter droping a bomb is made out of internet logos and buttons.
junk bag, motorized arm, laser pointer
This is version 1 of Gustavo, made for Espaço 1999, Museu Nacional de História Natural, Lisbon
A junk bag is appently carving a drawing on a wall with a red laser beam.
Gustavo is a yellow junk bag out of which cames a motorized arm with a laser pointer that apparently is
carving a near-circular drawing on the wall through a near-circular continuous movement.
Of course, I previously have carved the drawing on the wall, according to the line described by the laser.
Gustavo stands for the name of the hypothetical disposed robot.
“Do androids dream of electric sheep?” * Would robot-artists carve drawings on a wall?”
* (title of the Philip K. Dick book on which the movie Blade Runner was based)
During my design graduation I learned that in Portugal it used to be not worthy to cast steel moulds
in order to produce plastic objects, since there was no market for all the objects you had to sell,
to pay for the mould. Perspectives of exportation were weak as well.
Suddenly in 1998, the 3 portuguese mobile phone companies start competing with each other through
expensive, designer-like, plastic containers for their cell phones:
TMN – Mimo, Telecel – Vitamina and the Optimus – Boomrang.
People were throwing away tens of thousands of these objects every day.
For Design Inserts, at the ExperimentaDesign99 I recycled those colourful plastic containers as lamps,
making two different models for each mobile phone company.
untitled (desktop), 1998, 65×50x50cm
aquarium, air pump, water, laptop computer, video camera, cell phone, remote control.
made for O Império Contra Ataca, Galeria ZDB, Lisbon and La Capela, Barcelona
Desktop was made for the O Império comtra ataca exhibition, Galeria ZDB, Lisbon
(curated by Pedro Cabral Santo and Carlos Roque).
The exhibition was a reaction / comment on the Expo’98 World Fair, opening in Lisbon the next month, under the theme The Oceans: A Patrimony for the Future. The biggest Oceanarium in Europe was being built. At the same, time a big exhibition was taking place in one of our 4 main art institutions: “The Eighties”, curated by Maria de Corral, at Culturgest, where one could see the famous vacuum cleaners inside plexyglas boxes by Jeff Koons.
Desktop is an aquarium with electronic equipment from the early 90’s. Inside the aquarium are:
An Hewlett Packard portable computer
A Panasonic video camera
A Nokia mobile phone
A remote control
and a 3.1/2 floppy disk.
This work shows concerns on the technology race and what to do with outdated equipment.
As if we should put the junk and polution inside a big oceanarium, leting the fish loose and healthy in the ocean, and not the inverse.
satelite dishes, motion detector, walkman, tape, speakers, lamps, 4 channel sequencer, Manfrotto Autopole, steel cable.
made for Observatorio, Canal Isabel II, Madrid. February 1998
Beep is a flying saucer made out of two satelite dishes.
With its red lights it scans the area around, a 15 meter diameter ball of steel, a former water reservoir in Madrid.
The sound of static (a bit like vinil scrath), is interrupted every minute by an echoeing beep.
air extractors, satin, sneakers, 2 doors, motion detector , walkman, speakers, motorized projector (JBSystems Techno).
made for Jamba, Sala do Veado, Museu Nacional de História Natural, Lisbon
Heaven’s Gate 1997 Heaven’s Gate was made as a reaction to the mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult members in the Santa Fe Ranch, San Diego, California, on March 26th, 1997.
The members believed they would take a ride on a spaceship that was coming right behind the passing-by Hale-Bopp comet. The spaceship would transport them into another planet.
The bodies were found with ready-to-go packed luggage. But what intrigued me was that all the corpses were covered with sheets of purple satin fabric, and were wearing the same model of Nike sneakers (the “Just do it!” brand).
In the Heaven’s Gate installation, I tried to re-create the moment in which the bodies are teleported to the spaceship. Two air extractors with motion detectors give the effect of disappearing bodies by inflating and de-inflating the two satin sheets. Due to the East Timor issues, Portugal was not importing “Made in Indonesia” products at the time, so I was not able to get the Nike sneakers. Instead, I bought two pairs made in the north of Portugal, that imitated Adidas (the stripes) and with a puma printed i n the back. Two light-gray doors (gates) were used as beds.
Heaven’s Gate cult, Santa Fe Ranch, San Diego. Dead cult members and an image found on the internet.
OTHER VERSIONS of Heaven’s Gate were made:
1998 >version 2 at Heaven’s Gate – Project Room, ARCO’98, Parque Ferial Juan Carlos I, Madrid
2001 > version 3 at 321m2, CAPC, Coimbra, Portugal
this work was presented in two versions:
>Your Mission is a Failure, 1996, video projection, stereo sound, 56 min.
>Your Mission is a Failure (ICTM97 edit), 1997, video projection, light box, psychadelic sensor, stereo sound, 25 min.
Your Mission is a Failure consists of a series of virtual performances – recorded on video – taking place inside the worlds of early 3d computer games for pc.
The performances consist of continuously dying (thus the title, taken from the computer game Command & Conquer message when the game is over), or, using hacking tricks, becoming imortal,
exploring and passing the virtual boundaries of the game architectural set, or even making music during the gameplay.
All the performances were transfered live to video using a Creative TV Coder, under Windows 95.
Games used include: MechWarrior 2, Dark Forces, Doom, Descent 2, Duke Nukem 3d.
In 1997, I made a shorter version of the video, and used a psychadelic lightbox from my 1996 solo show.
This box was placed in the middle of the projection area and would react to the video and ambient sound through light patterns.
Your mission is a failure: Dark Forces
1. attacking a sculpture. 02′08”
2. invisible floor in the vacuum of space. 01′44”
3. jamming the door. 03′07”
4. invulnerable, jumping with the aid of land mines. 03′24”
Your mission is a failure: Duke Nukem 3D
1. playing pool with guns. 01′16”
2. invulnerable, creating a grid of laser beams inside a theater with laser detection bombs. 04′28”
3. using the shrinking gun on a dancer. 01′52”
4. invulnerable, underwater. floating laser detection bombs. 02′27”
Your mission is a failure: MechWarrior II
1. ejecting, aborting mission. 02′57”
2. explosions in the dark, and self-destructing an_invulnerable mech. 01′37”
3. leaving the defined mission zone. 04′01”
Your mission is a failure: MechWarrior II
1. invulnerable, taking hits. 01′42”
2. looking right and left to the rhythm of the steps. 02′44”
3. leaving the defined mission zone II. 03′43”
made for Greenhouse Display, Estufa Fria, Lisbon
VR Trooper 1996 A metal cylinder erects from the fresh turf. Inside the cylinder, through a red plexyglas, and under a strobbing light, one can see a rotating toy robot (VR Trooper) in a frame-by-frame kind of motion. The cylinder is meant to be an observation point for the trooper, that probably would erect from time to time, at diferent locations for routine observations. VR Trooper was made for the Greenhouse display exhibition, in 1996, that took place in a greenhouse in Lisbon, and was focused on ecological issues.