[ISEA2011] Workshop: Kathy Cleland, Mari Velonaki, John Tonkin & Kirsty Boyle – Signs of life: robot incubator, an afternoon with the robots

Workshop Statement

Join us for an afternoon with the robots in the Signs of Life: Robot Incubator exhibition. This special event takes you behind the scenes with the robots, artists and curator and will include artist talks, robot demonstrations and special activities. Get acquainted  with Mari Velonaki’s humanoid robot Diamandini and contribute to the next stage of her development. Psycholanalyse John Tonkin’s nervous robots and the other robots in the exhibition. Watch a special performance of Kirsty Boyle’s robot tree ceremony and interact with her hand crafted fragment robots. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

  1. Mari Velonaki – Diamandini (2011-2013)
    Diamandini is a 155cm tall custom-made humanoid robot incorporating an omni-directional wheeled motion platform; cameras, laser scanners and computers for real-time tracking and installation control. The humanoid robot is being developed through a five year research project between Mari Velonaki and robotics scientists at the Centre for Social Robotics, Australian Centre for Field Robotics, the University of Sydney. Diamandini will be making her first exhibition appearance in the Signs of Life: Robot Incubator exhibition as a work in progress. Spectators enter an installation space where a kinetic sculpture is moving about in a smooth, choreographed manner. The kinetic sculpture is a robot that resembles a small-scale female figure that does not bear any elements that would classify her as a typical android robot. The texture that covers the robot from her head to the hem of her long dress is porcelain-like, and makes her look more like a floating figurine rather than a robot. Her movement is accompanied by soundscapes generated from within her. When a spectator approaches the figurine she responds physically by turning towards the person and gently moving closer to them. Supported by: Australia Research Council and Centre for Social Robotics/ Australian Centre for Field Robotics, The University of Sydney.
  2. John Tonkin – nervous robots (2011)
    The robots are from John Tonkin’s nervous robots series. He is interested in how cybernetics has been used to construct computational models of different mental processes. His dysfunctional robots will explore some of these computational models of mind, awkwardly hybridising bottom-up AI approaches with more classical symbolic approaches that draw from a folk psychology conception of the mind as being the home of internal mental processes such as motives, desires, phobias and neuroses. attached/detached consists of two small autonomous robots that go through an ever shifting interplay of neediness and dismissiveness; with occasional moments of mutual happiness. These robots are primarily focussed on seeking or avoiding each other and will be oblivious to the audience. They draw on research by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth into attachment styles in adult romantic relationships. These different styles (secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant and fearful-avoidant) corresponded to different combinations of a person’s attitudes (positive or negative) towards themself and towards their partner.
  3. Kirsty Boyle – tree ceremony (2011) and fragment (2009-2011)
    Tree ceremony involves a robot interacting with a tree, creating an environment exploring how technology might bring us closer to nature. The work was commissioned by the Tinguely Museum and the Kunsthaus Graz for the touring ‘Robot Dreams’ exhibition, and comes direct to Istanbul from the ‘Puppen – Projectionsfiguren in der Kunst’ exhibition at museum villa rot in Germany. Fragment is a series of interactive modular robots, handcrafted in a range of different materials.  During the Signs of Life  exhibition a new series of robots will be developed that explore a range of differing aesthetic and gestural representations of artificial life manifested as performance machines.
  • Kathy Cleland (curator)  is an Australian-based curator, writer and researcher specialising in new media art and digital culture. She is Director of the Digital Cultures Program at The University of Sydney, an innovative cross-disciplinary program that critically investigates the social and cultural impacts of new digital media technologies. Her curatorial projects include the Cyber Cultures exhibition series which toured to over 20 venues in Australia and New Zealand (2000–2003), the Mirror States exhibition (2008) at MIC Toi Rerehiko, Auckland, NZ and Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney, and Face to Face: portraiture in a digital age for d/Lux/MediaArts, a digital portraiture exhibition currently touring Australia and Asia (2008-2011). Kathy is a founding member the Robot Cultures research initiative set up by the Digital Cultures Program and the Centre for Social Robotics Centre at the University of Sydney (www.robotcultures.org). She is on the Organising Committee and is Chair of the Curatorial Committee for ISEA2013 in Sydney. kathycleland.com
  • Mari Velonaki is a media artist and researcher who has worked in the field of interactive installation art since 1995. Her practice engages the spectator/participant with digital and robotic “characters” in interplays stimulated by sensory triggered interfaces. Her innovative human-machine interfaces promote intimate and immersive relationships between participants and interactive artworks. She was awarded a PhD in Media Arts at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales (AU) in 2003. Since 2003, Mari has been working as a senior researcher at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics. In 2006 she co-founded with David Rye the Centre for Social Robotics within the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney. In 2007 Mari was awarded an Australia Council for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship in recognition of her body of work. In 2009 she was awarded a prestigious Australian Research Council Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship (2009-2013) for the creation of a new robot. This research that investigates human-robot interactions in order to develop an understanding of the physicality that is possible between a human and a robot. Mari’s media art installations have been exhibited in museums and festivals worldwide.
  • John Tonkin is a Sydney (AU) based media artist who began working with new media in 1985. In 1999-2000 he received a fellowship from the Australia Council’s New Media Arts Board. His work explores interactivity as a site for physical and mental play. Recent projects have used real-time 3d animation, visualisation and data-mapping technologies and custom built and programmed electronics. His works have often involved building frameworks / tools / toys within which the artwork is formed through the accumulated interactions of its users. John currently lectures within the Digital Cultures Program, at the University of Sydney and is undertaking a practice based PhD at COFA, UNSW. His current research is around cybernetics, embodied cognition and situated perception. He is building a number of nervous robots that embody computational models of mind and responsive environments that form a kind of dynamically coupled enactive perceptual apparatus.
  • Kirsty Boyle is an Australian artist whose passion for robots has driven her to travel the world in order to work with other like-minded artists and scientists.  The historical and cultural aspects of science in society continue to be a major theme that informs her artistic practice.  Her most recent body of work examines robots as subjects of culture with particular emphasis on how we experience and personalise our interactions with them. During 2002, Kirsty began study under Mr Tamaya Shobei, a ninth generation Karakuri Ningyo craftsman and last remaining mechanical doll Master in Japan.  She is currently his only student, and the only woman to have ever been trained in the tradition. In 2010 she produced Tree Ceremony, commissioned by the Museum Tinguely and Kunsthaus Graz for the Robot Dreams exhibition, touring 2010 – 2011. onnai.com