"Our Friends Electric" is an exhibition in QUAD Gallery featuring artists who explore a range of themes and ideas relating to robots, artificial intelligence (AI), online networks and synthetic biology to highlight our hopes and fears for a present and future increasingly shaped by technological advance.
There has been a glut of recent news reports that obsess with the idea of robots and AI replacing humans in the workplace. We fear apocalyptic scenarios of AI machines rebelling against us; yet advances in robotics, AI and synthetic biological research also point to a bright future free of disease, where we live longer and our lives are made easy.
The artists gathered together for Our Friends Electric draw inspiration from front-line scientific research, yet provide a creative – and emotive – understanding to the continuing moral and ethical questions that surround new and evolving technology. The exhibition features film works; robotic sculptures and automata, and prints/ drawings produced by robots/ AI "life-forms".
Digital Painting Bot by Kim Asendorf & Ole Fach playfully posits the questions "what do computers do in their spare time?" and how do they "experience the world?" suggesting an artificially intelligent response to the idea of "leisure". Robots in Distress by boredomresearch is a single-screen projection using real-time software featuring emotionally sensitive robotic "agents", who can display despondency, programmed to monitor the environment in a marine habitat. My Robot Companion by Anna Dumitriu & Alex May explores questions of social robotics, asking "do we want and need robot companions?" And, if so, what kind of robot companions do we, as a society, want? Joey Holder’s film work Ophiux suggests a future where we as humans are augmented and upgraded, "a future in which synthetic biology has been fully realized… and where human biology has been computer programmed". Alex Pearl examines automata and our relationship with machines, producing films that show his robotic creations moving towards breakdown. Lost in Translation by Stanza features a custom-made robot that makes drawings, in response to a series of texts spoken by into a microphone interface, that are unique to each reader. The work questions not only the meaning and interpretation of text but just who controls our understanding of the outputs and indeed what is "Lost in Translation".
Artists: Kim Asendorf & Ole Fach, boredomresearch (Vicky Isley & Paul Smith), Anna Dumitriu & Alex May, Joey Holder, Alex Pearl, Stanza.
Our Friends Electric
1 July - 10 September 2017
Lindsay Kelley. Bioart Kitchen: Art, Feminism and Technoscience. I.B.Tauris Publishers