Networked_Performance

“Robotica IV: Control Inside the Panopticon” by Stanza

Robotica IV: Control Inside the Panopticon is a playful robot installation – with performative and interactive aspects – that questions ideas of surveillance and tracking in popular culture using, robots, CCTV and sensor technologies.

Twelve robots — each named after prison inmate numbers — roam freely on a canvas on the floor of the Gallery. These robotic prisoners are sent out across the canvas with small tasks to complete. This robotic “wandering” is captured over the evening onto the canvas. They create their own painting in their own little prison.

The idea of the Panopticon originated with the English utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham as a prison design that would allow an observer to monitor all the prisoners at all times, without any prisoner being aware of whether he was being monitored or not.

Like people, robots have common behaviours and can be programmed accordingly i.e. robots can follow a path (path following mode), the can avoid obstacles (avoidance mode) and they can operate in wander mode. They all try to avoid one another – depending on their proximity to one another – while searching the space. In doing so they demonstrate social behaviour.

In moving through the gallery people create a ‘memory space’- a reference to a past created by the traces and paths left behind. The patterns we make, the forces we weave, reveal different ways of moving through the space. These patterns disclose new ways of seeing the world. All the robots are recorded via CCTV and each is made to wear CCTV which is shown on a monitor which also records the event. Police “tape” keeps the robots inside their controlled space.

The robots mimic and trace the patterns people make – but based on algorithms. The robots are tracked – everything is watched and recorded – and unlike people their movements can be networked into retrievable data structures that it can be re-imagined and sourced for information. The digital patterns of the robots are re-made as analogue patterns. The robot path is in effect replaced with a series of ‘brushes’ – and it is these that are wandering around the canvas. A series of actions are applied to the movement of the digital brush across the rectangular canvas to create these robotic generative paintings. This artwork investigates the relationship between the analogue and the digital aesthetic.

Installation

The robots wander over the canvas to make the image – and this also protects the floor. The suggested canvas size 2.5 by 5m – and therefore a reasonable floor space is needed. All the robots will see the edges of the canvas and turn around automatically) i.e. they are roped off and will not go wandering off on their own! The set up is easy. There was also a CCTV set up; with wireless cameras on each robots so they could keep an eye on one another and we could watch them on the TV.

A film of the robots in action.

Paintings: I now have a series of very large canvases made by the robots. They are available all for sale and for exhibition. The robots are available for touring.

Technology: Group of fully programme self built robots wander around, prgrammed tro avoid one another and to try to escape.

Thanks to an AHRC creative fellowship and Goldsmiths digital studios, also special thanks to Lewis Sykes. Several assistants from Goldsmiths Digital Studios (where I am a Research Fellow) helped with set up.


May 27, 16:17
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