[ISEA2022] Paper: Ricardo Iglesias — Robophilia and device art in Japan


Full Paper. Session: Nature and Worlds / Critical robotics

Keywords: Robotic Art, Technology, AI, Karakuri, Device Art, New Media Art

Technological developments in computing, AI and robotics, and the existence of a manga culture, together with the idea of building prototypes from an artistic-commercial approach, raise the need to deal in depth with the development of robotic art in Japan, especially as a reference history and as a vision of the future.

The current Japanese revolution in industrial, social and service robotics; the different mechanical anthropomorphic developments: assistance dolls, hostesses, dancers and concert performers, etc., are well known due to their constant appearances in all the media. But the situation in which we find ourselves today is a reflection of the natural evolution produced in the world of automata since the middle of the 16th century. Japanese artisan technicians begin to develop their own technology, initially influenced by the Western one. They will have to refine the mechanisms to suit their culture: clocks (wadokei) have to conform to the traditional japanese division of time. This knowledge began to be used in the creation of different wooden automatons: Karakuri ‘mechanical devices to produce surprise in a person’. Its objective is the reproduction of daily actions within Japanese social life: religious or private rituals, theatricalization of historical events, indigenous dances, etc.

The development of Manga comics strengthens a close vision of cooperation between the human being and the technological being. The successive techno-organic evolutions of the mecha, robots led by a human pilot (Mazinger Z, Tetsujin 28-go), lead us to the total integration of the robotic body with the human soul (Neon Genesis Evangelion).

The permeability between art and design, so complexly raised in the West, does not suffer from this categorical distinction in Japan, where the concept of Device Art opens up the possibilities of aesthetic experimentation with new technologies towards productions that are more or less industrial and, therefore, its approach to a wider audience. Authors such as Nobumichi Tosa, Kenji Yanobe, Momoyo Torimitsu, Shunji Yamanaka or Takeshi Ishiguro show different and complex robotic constructions, always from a close, friendly point of view, but at the same time critical of the possibilities that technology offers in the contemporary world.

  • Ricardo Iglesias (ES). Bachelor of Philosophy and Letters (UAM), PhD Cum Laude in Fine Arts (UB). European rank and Extraordinary Doctorate Award 2011-2012. He is currently a professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts, UCM (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid). In 2015, III MADATAC New Media Art Essay Award and publication: Art and robotics: technology as aesthetic experimentation. Work concepts: interaction, communication and control. Exhibitions (selection): (Al)most life, after all (Barcelona 2019) Expanded Aesthetics (Colombia 2019), The Origin of Magic (Madrid 2019) Electronic November (Buenos Aires 2017) HarddiskMuseum (Barcelona, ​​2017), Electronic Timing. BEEP Collection of Electronic Art (Valencia 2017) ArtPlay 1840s (TATE, United Kingdom, 2014) Metaphors of Survival (Buenos Aires 2013) Video Guerrilla Festival (Sao Paulo 2012). Residency_grants: International researcher UB-Univ. Maimonides-UNTREF (Buenos Aires 2017) Artistes residents. Center Hangar (Barcelona 2014) LICAP. Residence (Buenos Aires 2013) NCCA. Residence (Saint Petersburg 2013) VEGAP Proposals (2012) OSIC Scholarships (2012), Ramon Llull Institute Subsidy (2011/2006) CONCA. Arts Visuals (2011). https://www.ricardoiglesias.net