Rossum's is a working group for robotic artists founded on the practical goal of helping each other develop ideas and skills. Out of this pragmatic aim are emerging ideas about embodiment, movement, and the role of technology.
Art has always been embodied. But in the heady rush to the virtual, in the novelty of purely informational digital art, and our own cultural movement toward anapresence, an essential connection to the groundedness of physical reality has been lost. We long for digital artworks to regain the vitality of physical form.
Rossum's is about the embodiment of digital art: presence, not telepresence; immediacy, not global connectivity; corporeal wholeness, not distributed everywhereness. Our works are meant to be interrogated by individuals present in their literal vicinity. They are immediate, not connected to the web, not telepresent in some other domain, but intimately concerned with the spaces they physically occupy.
Embodiment gives digital artworks a physical form that matches the intent, the power, and the uniqueness of the work. Moreover, digital artworks need bodies so that the work itself can really "feel" the world and, more importantly, really be present in it, be able to take actions that are more than virtual, make movements that move molecules and not just electrons. Digital art resonates and expands in the richness of the tangible world.
Mechanosphere is our first show as a collective. Some of the work creates a certain gesture or behavior. Some seeks to find its own way towards how it will exist in the world. Some are experiments in new forms which aspire toward our dreams of truly thinking machines. But all embrace their presence in the world, share our space, and partake of the subtle diet that is our corporeal existence.
The Rossum's show "Mechanosphere" was mounted within the Three Rivers Arts Festival Gallery store front window and second floor space at 937 Liberty Avenue. The show reflected the eclectic nature of the group, with a unifying theme of works which are "surprisingly animate." The show focussed on new work and new revisions of ongoing projects.
The show opened with a reception Friday, February 23, 2007 from 5:30-8:00pm and ran through Friday, March 23, 2007. Gallery hours were Monday through Friday 10am-5pm and Saturday noon-5pm, at 937 Liberty Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh.
The show was organized with the gallery by curator Katherine Talcott.
|"Conversation Piece", Michael Kontopoulos, 2007|
Film editor Walter Murch, who edited many of Francis Ford Copolla's films, developed a theory about edits while working on The Conversation (1974). He noticed that in many cases, the best place to make a cut was when he blinked. Subsequently, Murch wrote about the human blink as a sort of Mental punctuation mark: a signifier of a viewer's comfort with visual material and therefore, a good place to separate two ideas with a cut.
This sculpture is a physical test of Murch's principle. I watched The Conversation while wearing a custom device that recorded the pattern of my blinks during the film. Using this information, I created a display in which the left mallet taps out the pattern of my blinks, while the right mallet taps out the pattern of Murch's edits. When the two match up, the cymbal chimes for success.
|"On Beyond Mother Goose", Ian Ingram, 2007|
Before she will lay her egg, On Beyond Mother Goose performs an elaborate nesting ritual. On Beyond Father Gander will join her soon, after a long journey south from his summer home on a small island in Maine.
|"Albatross", Garth Zeglin, 2001-2007|
I am fascinated by the sensual meditative motions of fabric moving through air. Albatross is set to inhabit the air, to float above the earth. But on each drag across the floor, the roughnesses catch and snag the fabric until it rises free again. And a connection is plainly visible from the fabric through the web of string to the propulsion motors in the suitcase and the counterweights in the window. The strings silently loft the gossamer fabric through its slow ascents and descents but also ground it and define boundaries in the space.
|"Surface with sticks #3", Gregory Witt, 2006-2007|
I like boats. Some of them are pretty enough that it seems like their designs must have come as much from looking at the water as anything else. I think that that is what interests me- the precise mechanical construction of a form that intuitively reflects the natural dynamic system it is built to function in. I'm not necessarily interested in analyzing ocean waves or anything, I just like that as a sort of process. I'll make some guesses about how I think nature ought to work, and then construct a sort of instrument to see what kind of world is implied in the result.
|"Recycler", J. Hays|
This machine recycles the same cheesy poop over and over again.
|"iBuddha (TV purifier)", Takehito Etani|
This head of a buddhisattva is preserved fresh in a specimen jar and connected to the TV via audio cable to filter the unwanted bugaboos received by the TV. The buddha takes on the negative effects caused by the bugaboos that sneak into your house through a TV set and neutralizes them for you. It is easy to operate, simply turn the switch on and tune into the channel of your choice. It also doubles as a perfect decoration piece for a peaceful household.
|"Reflection", Doug Fritz|
Its concept is simple, a mirror that moves to always reflect your gaze back at you. The project is mainly about the process of self-reflection, of human self-fascination, of gaze, and interaction. My goal was to break down interaction into its simplest form, to connect it to what drives us to gaze. Hopefully producing something both gutturally and mentally playful.
|"Single Flock", Amisha Gadani, 2007|
Completely fascinated by curving forms and movements, I find the sinuous movement of fish and languid drag of jellyfish tentacles seductive and beautiful. The sensual swirls, and sudden, flickering movement capture my thoughts when experiencing a school of fish in motion. I appreciate the unity that the fluid space of the ocean gives to the objects within it and am interested in the currents and flow patterns of objects in water that remain unseen until they affect some yielding element. These relationships and dependencies fascinate me and encourage me to think of other relationships to the ocean like that of air and sea. DaVinci once said, "describe underwater swimming and you will have described the flight of birds". I am interested in the similarities between the fluid spaces of water and air and how my undersea interests translate in this different medium. My ultimate goal is not just appreciation or observation of curves in motion, but to inspire a sense of wonder.
|"Fledgling", Garth Zeglin, 2006-2007|
As a technologist, I am troubled by the human need to anthropomorphize our machines; it carries overtones of an animistic relation to the world, not one based on a clarity of mind and perception. However, as an artist I know full well the comfort of relating to our artifacts in terms of sentience and autonomy. Fledgling is an attempt to explore this duality by creating autonomous behavior in a simple artificial creature designed solely to provide an ambient presence as it moves through its one-dimensional world.
|"Welcome Home, Pioneer", Stuart Anderson and Shaun Slifer, 2007|
In 1877, the first report of tumbleweed growing wild in North America was made in Bon Homme County, South Dakota. It is believed that the seeds arrived in the United States accidentally, mixed with flax sown by Ukrainian farmers. The tumbleweed's rapid spread west was due to its unique mode of propagation: millions of seeds are scattered as the mature and dessicated bush is blown along by the wind. Farmers west of the Ohio River paved the way for the tumbleweed as they cleared the tall plains grasses for single-crop agriculture. This re-engineering of the landscape allowed the plants to travel great distances and provided space for the fast germinating bush to grow. By 1903, the plant could be found as far west as the Pacific coast. Archaeologists believe that tumbleweeds have always followed agricultural peoples as they cleared new lands, making the tumbleweed one of the oldest members of the ever growing class of non-domesticated cultural-genetic commensalists.
Takehito Etani creates work in various media such as electronics, wearable technology, installations, sculpture, performance, and video. His work often deals with the body and its daily activities, as well as their relationships to technology. Mundane reality is where he looks for the possibility for self transcendence. His work has been shown internationally including at the VIPER Basel Festival for Film, Video and New Media, Switzerland, and the Stuttgarter Filmwinter Festival for Expanded Media, Germany, as well as at Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum, Kawasaki, Japan as a nominee for The 7th Taro Okamoto Memorial Award for Contemporary Art.
I like boats. Some of them are pretty enough that it seems like their designs must have come as much from just looking at the water as anything else. I think that this is what interests me---the precise but (at least somewhat) intuitive construction of a form that reflects the naturally occurring dynamic system it is built to function in.
I like this as a sort of process. I'll make a few guesses about how I think nature ought to work, and then begin building a sort of experiment. But maybe experiment isn't the best word for this---it's not so much about testing theories as it is about building something to function within a world defined by them. But eventually this world runs into reality (the work can only exist in reality and any physical function must obey its rules). As the construction progresses and I am forced to make more assumptions, the implied world gets more specific, and often things don't work. This is when it really feels like I'm doing some kind of research. I'll alter my ideas to be, if not more objectively accurate, at least more compatible with nature. Eventually things start working and an apparatus is completed that hopefully can function both in reality and in the world I'd like reality to be.
Both a technologist and an artist, Ian Ingram creates work that takes a variety of forms: mechatronic installations, conceptual proposals, interactive animations, Giant-Squid- seeking collectives, and robotic artworks that are meant to be released into the wild to survive on their own. Ian attempts to transfer his infatuation with the strange, the mysterious, and the cryptic through systems that create symbioses between anthropogenic and natural systems. Such work requires a synthesis of technology, choreography, animation, and a sense of awe of the inner-workings of the natural world, both its macroscopic, dynamic morphologies and the algorithmic underpinnings of the systems we call life. That Ian's work often takes the form of puppets, animations, and robots is also clear evidence that he his amongst the many afflicted with the Geppetto Complex: the unending and always unfulfilled desire to create sentient, living beings through artificial means. Ian is also the President of Ingram Clockworks and is a Lamettrian Geppettoist. Ian has a BS in Marine Robotics and MS in Ocean Acoustics from MIT and is currently a candidate for an MFA in Art from Carnegie Mellon University.
The notion of subtlety runs throughout my artistic development and recent body of work. I am interested in how simple concepts, images and interactions can be expanded into complex emotional or spiritual discourses. In particular, I like to focus on a specific concept, exploring every possibility I can derive without exhausting its initial creative appeal, and incorporate it with technology to orchestrate provocative interaction and reaction.
Though my work is not always interactive in the definitive sense, my projects---which vary in medium, scale and technological sophistication---share a common role. They combine my formal and technical theories on media art and interactive design with my personal interests in a variety of topics including the abjection of the body and amplification of simple gestures, the identification and isolation of film and television iconography and often, reactions to personal and political concerns.
My goal is to present these complex concerns in a simple and approachable manner by using the viewers' comfort with technology as a catalyst to incite critical discourse.
Doug Fritz is working toward a dual degree, B.S. Computer Science, and B.F.A. Fine Art at Carnegie Mellon University. He has always felt it necessary to exercise both halves of the brain, and his work ranges from robotic art installations, to a full figured bronze, to multi-agent problem solving, to oil painting, to Java apps and just about everything else.
My art practice is about the in-between spaces, the connections and relationships formed and observed, whether it is in taking notice of an activity or creating a new situation, my work exists out of a desire to understand and comprehend this universe of connections. If we believe that art like life is transient, and that something does not become art until it is experienced, then we may assume that art is not exclusively the simple raw product, but rather art is the emotional communion created. Art is the subsequent transference of experience with intentionality, and I take as good art the transference of the unattainable into the immediate, and the immediate into the forever unattainable. I probably can not have any real affect in that goal, but I feel it a worthy enough task to give at least one of my lifetimes to pursue.
Joseph Hays is currently pursuing his MFA at Carnegie Mellon University. His work is time based and concerns the process of change. By creating formal settings that house chaotic processes, his work explores the kinetic nature of materials in experimental arrangements.
Stuart Anderson is a PhD candidate at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute. He enjoys a host of induced paranoia concerned with the sometimes violent relationship between language and noumena. Stuart designed and constructed a pair of robotic treadmills used in the September 2005 staging of Grisha Coleman's interactive performance piece "Echo::System". He created the interactive installation "Pantheic Triangle" with Chris Smoak in May of 2003.
Shaun Slifer began as a graphic design student at Watkins College of Art & Design in Nashville, where he received a BFA with a concentration in sculpture and installation in 2004. He works with a broad range of media, whatever he can get his hands on that might suit an idea: videos to be approached as evidence of actions, posters which graphically convey hope, sculptures which play with notions of where art should be or what it should be made of. He often works with a combination of pre-fabricated and original objects utilizing careful and minimal construction. He is integrally involved in several collective projects outside of his own work, including the Street Art Workers graphics collective and the Free Ride! bicycle recycling collective.
I am a roboticist and artist in Pittsburgh, PA. As a technologist, I am troubled by the human need to anthropomorphize our machines. It has overtones of a superstitious relation to the world, one based on faith and animism, not one based on a clarity of mind and perception. However, as an artist and individual I know full well the comfort and convenience of relating to our artifacts in terms of sentience and autonomy. As technology progresses and our artifacts acquire behavior that is ever more obscure, this seems like a pragmatic solution.
I see my present work as exploring this duality synthetically by setting out to create autonomous behavior in simple artificial creatures. And since I am making my own mechanical progeny, I have the opportunity to invest them with my own yearnings, and so I have set them to inhabit the air, to float above the earth. In this way, they need no particular backstory: they are simply machines I have made which are suspended from the ceiling, and yet also machines to provide a sense of companionship.His most recent art showing was a collaboration with Gretchen Skogerson entitled "Confined Reflections" in the 2006 DeCordova Museum Annual Exhibition in Lincoln, MA. He has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and a Ph.D. in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon, specializing in legged locomotion.
Heavily inspired by the mesmerizing movement of fish schools, Amisha Gadani is an artist interested in the unseen and unbelievable in nature. Through installation, performance, video and print she attempts to depict the invisible currents of wind and water while also displaying the high aesthetic of their movements and flow. Her recent video work focuses on the high aesthetic of descending fabric and its ability to emulate gelatinous sea creatures. She is currently living in Pittsburgh and working toward a B.F.A from Carnegie Mellon University.