Spider and I – ANG
@ Speculum Artium 2021
Spider and I sit watching the skyBrian Eno, Spider and I, (Before and after science) 1977.
On a world without sound
We knit a web to catch one tiny fly
For our world without sound
A hexapod (i.e., a robot with six legs looking like a big mechanical spider) is moving on the ground. Its behaviors seem to alternate calm moments and attitudes of distrust and aggressiveness. The movements of the robot set up a strange and artificial choreography through the multiple speed variations and the slight movements of the hexapod. These shifts of behavior are directly linked to my own emotional state. I am equipped with a smart wristband while the work is exhibited, in order to send my biometrical data to the robot in real time through the network. A partnership with the SCALAB Laboratory (Cognitive Sciences & Affective Sciences, CNRS – Lille University, France) focused on the analysis of these biometrical data in order to identify in real time my shifts of emotions.
SPIDER AND I intends to mix human, animal and artificial elements, as robotics is precisely more and more inspired by animal forms of life (we can see it, for instance with the famous military quadruped robots developed by the Boston dynamics company). This hexapod will present itself as an animated sculpture, with a strong contrast between its mechanical aspect on one hand, and with the “living” qualities of its movements, behaviors, and actions on the other hand. The spider-like appearance of the robot gives him a strange and disturbing aspect.
What are the notions of presence and incarnation through the internet, as the body became in itself an entity submitted to measures and algorithmic quantifications of any kind?
With these zoo-mechanical visual references, the work questions the notion of mimesis, as the machine imitates animals while its behavior is influenced by a stream of data from a specific human activity.
My physical/emotional state, traduced by my cardiac rhythm and by the micro-sweating on my hands, will directly determine if the robot shows aggressive or friendly attitudes. During the exhibition, a screen will show in real time the treatment of the data influencing the robot.
The articulation between all these elements – hexapod, streams of physical data from the artist – will directly use Quantified self technologies. The notion of Quantified self refers to a trend that appeared with the arrival on the market of connected objects allowing to measure in real time a whole set of personal physiological data (cardiac rhythm, number of footsteps per day, lost calories in running, etc.). The aim of Quantified self is explicitly to adapt surveillance and anticipation capacities allowed by data mining to the physical intimacy of everyone. This phenomenon illustrates a global trend pretending to spread digitization up to the exhaustive and omnipotent analysis of the whole human activity. This digitization implies two main consequences: on one hand people are invited to increase their physical performance through this technological self-discipline and self-surveillance system, and on the other hand the streams of personal data automatically fed can be exploited by every economic and/or political power who can access it for plotting and profiling people. Here, those invasive measurement tools will be hijacked in order to control the behavior of the spider robot.
The robot will be linked to me through the internet, so I will also be “tied” to this distant machine. This “attachment” would give here an ironic version of the romantic link between the artist, his inner world and his work of art, at the time of digital technologies. SPIDER AND I instantiates a whole mutant ecosystem. With this immaterial link between the artist et and his creature, the project questions in a critical way the mixing of qualities inherent to the different categories at stake (human, animal, artificial).
The strange ballet interpreted by the spider robot raises those questions: How to create specific dramaturgies for this machine remotely “haunted” by the artist? What are the notions of presence and incarnation through the internet, as the body became in itself an entity submitted to measures and algorithmic quantifications of any kind?
A collaboration with the SCALab laboratory (University of Lille, FR)
Mechanical expertise : Frédérick Largillière.
With the support of :
- Le Fresnoy,
- La SCAM,
- Région Hauts-de-France,
- Le Bel Ordinaire art center,
- Le Shadok art center.