[ISEA2019] Artist Statement: Bill Vorn – Copacabana Machine Sex

Artist Statement

Robotic Performance, dimensions variable, 30″00.

Copacabana Machine Sex is a 30-minute burlesque musical robotic performance involving solely biomorphic machines as actors, musicians and dancers. Our goal is not to replicate a real cabaret, but to conceive a metaphorical extravaganza in response to the question: “what would happen if machines would be on a cabaret stage?” Aesthetically speaking, the set is a strange hybrid mix between the classic Broadway kitsch and the dark industrial look of our previous productions. Like most of our work, it is an exploration of robotic forms and movements through music, sound and light.
The Copacabana performance can be described as a mini music hall show, hence its title, as so many nightclubs around the world are named this way. It involves a succession of different musical numbers where machines perform on stage as musicians and dancers. Copacabana is comprised of nine robotic entities: one main central character covered with halogen light bulbs, four carnival dancers with LED fans, three frenetic pairs of robotic legs, and one suspended set of six actuated human skulls. The soundtrack is a mix of disco, rap, latino, techno, industrial and ambient music, and all the robot movements and lighting effects are perfectly synchronized to the beat.
The “machine sex” theme is not approached on the literal or strict sense, but in a more subtle manner where machines are obviously not presented as having intercourse with each other but rather involved in a seduction endeavor between themselves and with the viewers. Even though we can refer to this performance as being a “machine burlesque” spectacle, our aim is not to create a deviant or satirical sex show, but to evoke human behaviors in an unusual manner through simple machine actions presented in a familiar music hall / cabaret context.

  • Based in Montreal, Canada, Bill Vorn is working in the field of Robotic Art since more than twenty-five years. His installation and performance projects involve robotics and motion control, sound, lighting, video and cybernetic processes. He pursues research and creation using Artificial Life and robotic technologies through artistic work based on anthropomorphism, projection and empathy, defining an “Aesthetics of Artificial Behaviors”. He holds a PhD degree in Communication Studies from UQAM (Montreal, 2001) for his thesis on “Artificial Life as Media”. He currently teaches Electronic Arts in the Department of Studio Arts at Concordia University (Intermedia program) where he is a full time professor. Since 1993, his theatrical work with robots and machines has been presented in numerous international events related to Digital, Visual and Media Arts. He was cofounder of the electronic pop music band Rational Youth with Tracy Howe in 1981.

Produced with the help of The Canada Council for the Arts